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Insights to Prenatal Development


Sound advances in ultrasound technology have allowed us access to real time 3D images of the fetus as it develops in the womb, resulting in more public, as well as clinical insights regarding prenatal development. This paper will provide a brief overview of the most recent understandings to prenatal development.

Insights to Prenatal Development

The amelioration of the ultrasound tech has made available actual time 3D images of the embryo, which are intriguing to both the public and physicians. These images serve a high purpose, determining the condition of the fetus throughout growth and development and until it is ready to be birthed. Not only do these images offer a precise description of the congenital anomalies as; cardiac defects, central nervous systems anomalies and facial clefts, but they are also used when carrying out delicate procedures such as fetal surgery. According to obstetricians, it is very rewarding to see parents’ reactions to the pictures shown to them of their unborn child.

The Motor and Sensory Development

Some images showing the fetus ‘sucking their thumb’ or ‘walking’ come as huge surprises for people. Although this information has been documented in different literature, it is still impossible to perceive without actually seeing it for oneself. With the availability of these pictures, it is clear that the embryo does possess certain complex movements. The behaviors displayed by a newborn in their early days are as a result of the primitive reflex activity. These reflex activities are dependent on the spinal reflex development. It is important to understand that the spinal reflexes are not controlled by the brain, but are complete within the fetus from the eighth week of gestation. Voluntary movements that develop in the first year of a child’s life are different from reflex movements. This is because reflexes rely on the central nervous system and particularly myelination, which begins around week 18 of the gestation period. It is a fact that all primitive reflexes are lost to allow for the mastering of voluntary movements.

Since the introduction of the ultrasonography in the 1950s a lot has been learnt with regards to fetal behavior. Fetuses have numerous behaviors, which start as sluggish flexion and stretching of the spinal cord and limbs at the 7.5 week. Over the next 3 to 4 weeks these movements begin to increase and other movement patterns can also be observed including breathing, limb flexion and stretching, truncal rotation, as well as sucking and yawing. As the embryo continues to grow and the nervous system matures, these movements become coordinated and regular.

From week 12, fetal thumb sucking can be observed. Thumb sucking has been used to predict the position of the head, as well as if the baby is right or left handed. Before, handedness was believed to be attached to the cerebral lateralization. However, the fetus preference of one thumb over the other begins at 12 weeks, before the brain has started any control over its movements. Sucking is, therefore, considered to be a reflex action. Brain stimulation is known to influence the organization of the brain. For this reason, it is argued that the reflex activity could cause the brain to develop right or left handedness as well as subsequent lateral functions. A fetus sensory development and its response to sound begin from week 23. This response can be felt with the slowing of the heart rate when the mother is talking.


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