David Barker, the English epidemiologist, said that growing babies in the womb can receive communication from the outside world. These messages are like “postcards” that say if the world is a safe or dangerous place or is rich or deprived of foods. And they will develop according to these messages received.
Here is a short introduction to the 9 months of pregnancy from Your Child ’s perspective.
Month 1 (1st Trimester)
After 24 hours of being alive, every bit of genetic information necessary for development is already present in a single cell. E.g., hair color, skin tone, and probably even special talents. After around a week, the cell travels from the fallopian tube to the uterus, where it undergoes the great divide. Half of the cell will become us, while the other half forms the placenta, our lifeline for the coming months that brings food and oxygen and carries away waste. By week 4, we have turned into a sophisticated being that is growing at a rate of 1 million cells per second. Our spinal cord, heart, and brain are now visible, and we are around the size of a poppy seed.
Month 2 (1st Trimester)
During the fifth week, our heart starts to beat. We are now 10,000 times bigger than we were at conception. If we continue to grow at this rate, we would weigh 1.5 tons at birth. This is crucial in our neurological development, as our brain grows at around 100,000 cells each minute. If the mother consumes alcohol or drugs or experiences extreme stress, trauma, or severe sickness, it can affect our brain development. This can lead to impaired cognitive function or even schizophrenia some 40 years later. At the end of week 8, all the major organs have begun to grow, and our face and limbs have started to form. Our heart is now beating at 150-170 beats per minute, which is twice as fast as our mother’s. We also begin to make spontaneous, jerky movements. We are now the size of a raspberry.
Month 3 (1st Trimester)
At the beginning of month 3, we start to react to stimuli. Our sense of smell is developing, for one. If someone smokes a cigarette, it can make us cringe. Our brain continues to grow fast too. Since we still have plenty of space in the womb, it essentially becomes our sensory playground. We learn to move our arms, stretch out our fingers and toes, arch our backs, smile, make funny faces or suck our thumb. And 75% of us are now showing a preference to use the right hand. We are now around the size of a lemon.
Month 4 (2nd Trimester)
Our head makes up about half of our size. We can now kick, pass urine, and swallow food. Our taste buds are developing as well. When our mother eats something, we already appreciate different tastes and become less fussy eaters. If we get inadequate or poor nutrients, our physiology adapts to sustain our development. This process is also called fetal programming. However, researchers have found that it can result in health problems such as obesity, heart conditions, and diabetes in later life. We are now around the size of a tomato.
Month 5 (2nd Trimester)
If our parents’ voices used to be muffled and strange, we can truly hear them now and differentiate sounds. We also experience a big growth spurt, and our teeth, hair, fingernails, eyebrows, and eyelashes start to develop. We become more active each day and enjoy flexing our tiny muscles. As we wriggle, kick, and turn, our mother will start to feel us moving too. This is called ‘quickening’. We have reached the size of a dragonfruit at this point.
Month 6 (2nd Trimester)
On the 26th week, our eyes open for the first time. Although everything is blurry, we start to respond to light. Some experts advise mothers to go out into the sun. During the sixth month, a significant mark of brain development occurs: the cerebral cortex splits into two separate hemispheres. One study has shown that we can now make simple expressions, such as moving our lips to form a “grin”. Researchers also suggest that our communication skills develop at this time; that’s why we can express hunger or distress after birth. We are now around the size of a cauliflower.
Month 7 (3rd Trimester)
We begin to develop regular sleeping and waking intervals. The hair on our head is now clearly visible, and our milk teeth have grown under our gums. We can also hear better and respond to sounds with increased heartbeat and movement. Many researchers believe that we start to learn language during the 7th month as we can recognize our parents’ voices and their native tongue once we are born. If the mother gives birth now, though, we would have a 90% chance of survival. We are almost as big as a pineapple already.
Month 8 (3rd Trimester)
We start behaving like a newborn. Our brain and nervous system have fully formed at this point, as well as our lungs. We can practice breathing on our own by inhaling amniotic fluid. Our immune system begins to develop too. We now spend 90-95 % of our time asleep, perhaps dreaming. Awake or asleep, we are moving up to 50 times an hour. We can explore with our hands or move around the wall of our mother’s womb by pushing off with our feet. In preparation for birth, most of us turn our head down. We are now around the size of a melon.
Month 9 (3rd Trimester)
During the last month, we continue to push and kick to practice our motor skills. When the mother laughs, eats sweets, or drinks a cold drink, we can respond by bouncing up and down. Psychologically and physically speaking, we have already been shaped by everything that has happened to us since the first day. As a result, certain aspects of our temperament and personality have begun to form. By this time, we have reached the size of a jackfruit.
Dr. Wanwadee Sapmee Panyakat, MD. (5 July 2020)