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Stages of Fetal Development
Every pregnancy is different and every baby develops at a different rate. But there are particular stages of fetal development that every baby goes through at around the same stage of pregnancy.
Fetal Development Timeline
In this article, we take a look at the stages of fetal development by month. If you'd like more detailed information, scroll down to read about your baby's development in each week of pregnancy.
Fetal Development Month by Month
Note that the first week of pregnancy is measured from the first day of your menstrual period. You ovulate approximately 14 days after this. So, if the egg is successfully fertilized, your physical pregnancy (when fetal development starts) begins around the end of week two. You may also notice that there are more developments in the first three months than later in pregnancy. You're right! Most of the development happens early on and then the next months are focused on gaining body weight and finer points of fetal development.
The First Month (Pre-Conception, Ovulation, and Conception):
- An egg is released into the fallopian tubes during ovulation.
- The egg is fertilized by the male's sperm and becomes a zygote.
- The zygote travels through the fallopian tubes towards the uterus.
- Zygote cells divide and build - the inner ball of cells eventually become an embryo.
- The embryo digs in and embeds in the uterus.
One Month Pregnant (Embryonic Period):
- The cells begin to divide into specific functions, such as blood, kidney, and nerve cells.
- The heart, brain, and spinal cord start to develop.
- The gastrointestinal tract begins to develop.
- Little buds for arms and legs begin to grow.
- Eyes and ears begin to form.
- Tissue which will later become bones begins to develop.
- The heart continues to develop and is beating with a regular rhythm and pumping blood through the cells.
- Arms and legs continue to grow and little paddles that will become hands and feet form.
- Brain development continues and the lungs begin to form.
Two Months Pregnant (Embryonic Period moves to Fetal Development Period):
- Hair follicles and nipples form.
- The arms grow longer and elbows develop.
- The fingers and toes become visible.
- All of the essential organs have started developing.
- Eyelids become more defined and begin to close.
- Ears take shape, along with the other facial features.
- Intestines rotate.
Three Months Pregnant (Fetal Stage of Development Continues until Delivery):
- The facial features are well-formed.
- The limbs become long and thin and nails form on the fingers and toes.
- The genitals develop.
- The liver works hard to create red blood cells.
- Tooth buds form.
- The hands can make fists.
- The baby starts to stretch and move.
Four Months Pregnant:
- Lanugo - fine, protective hair - grows on Baby's head.
- Bones become harder and muscle tissue continues to develop.
- Secretions are produced by the liver and pancreas.
- Survival instincts - like sucking motions - are practiced in the womb.
- The five senses are well-developed and the baby can hear your heartbeat and even your voice.
- The baby's kicks and movements become stronger and you will begin to feel the 'quickening'.
Five Months Pregnant:
- The fetus continues to practice survival and is now able to swallow.
- The Lanugo hair continues to grow and covers the entire body.
- The meconium (Baby's first poop) is made inside the bowel.
- Eyelashes and brows form.
- The muscles continue to develop and the baby becomes more and more active.
- You can hear the baby's heartbeat through a stethoscope.
Six Months Pregnant:
- The baby begins to store fat and will gain up to half a pound per weeks.
- Lung development continues, including the lower airways.
- The senses are very well developed and the fetus may react to loud or sudden noises.
- The eyes are fully developed.
- Fingerprints form.
Seven Months Pregnant:
- Brain function develops rapidly.
- Baby's eyelids open and he or she may become sensitive to light.
- The respiratory system becomes more developed. The baby's lungs are not yet mature but he or she begins to breathe more regularly.
- The bones are soft but fully developed.
Eight Months Pregnant:
- The baby continues to grow rapidly and gain fat.
- The skin becomes less wrinkled as he or she fills out.
- Sleeping patterns are developed in the womb (they don't always correspond with yours!)
- The blood vessels and heart are fully developed.
Nine Months Pregnant:
- Baby sheds the lanugo (some may remain on the shoulders and upper arms).
- Head hair becomes thicker and coarser.
- Growth slows as Baby stores energy and prepares for delivery.
- The muscles, bones, and organs are fully functional and Baby is safe to be born anytime between 38 and 40 weeks pregnant.
Take a Closer Look at Fetal Development
Your baby is growing rapidly and changes occur week to week. Read about particular fetal developments and understand what is happening to your baby. Just click on a particular aspect of fetal development you need to know more about: