Journey of a Lifetime - In 40 Weeks

First published in Beyond India, September 2016 edition.

Dr Nupur Goyal

Dr Arunaz Kumar

One of the most amazing and magical creations of nature is giving birth to a baby. Pregnancy can be a very exciting but also a stressful time. However, knowing the details of your baby’s growth during pregnancy can make this experience more relaxed and help you become a confident mother. In just 40 weeks, your baby is able to grow from a small group of cells into an amazing human body with a beating heart that you feel punching and kicking you in your womb. Here’s a closer look at your baby’s growth.

Trimester 1 (Weeks 0 – 13, or Months 1 – 3)

The 40 weeks of pregnancy are measured from your last menstrual period. Technically your baby does not exist until about week 2 when a ripened egg from the ovary is released and fertilised by sperm. The fertilised egg must then travel through the fallopian tube and into the womb where it will live for the next nine months. In about week 4, your placenta will begin to form which will provide the baby with the oxygen and nutrition that it needs from the mother.

Over the next few weeks your baby will start to develop vital organ tissues. The brain and spinal cord will form; the heart will begin to beat; and tiny eyes, ears and nose begin to form. If you visit your doctor or sonographer after week 6-7, you may be able to see the movement of a beating heart during an ultrasound examination. After the end of week 12, your pregnancy is far more stable and baby is much less vulnerable to developmental dangers after this point as all of your baby’s vital organs have already formed.

Trimester 2 (Weeks 14 – 27, or Months 4 – 6)

In the coming few weeks, your baby will become more active. It will learn to frown, squint and grimace. It will also be able to suck on his fingers if his/her hands are close by. It will be able to swallow and hear. Your baby will start to develop thin hairs and body fat to help it retain heat. By about week 20 it may be possible to tell if your baby is a boy or a girl via ultrasound. You might be able to feel your baby twist, punch and kick now.

Trimester 3 (Weeks 28 – 40, or Months 7 – 9)

During the final semester, your baby will rapidly become stronger and bigger. Its bones will begin to harden and he/she will usually be in a head down position for birth. It will start to prepare for the outside world and accumulate more fat and gain more weight. Over the last month your baby will start to drop down into the pelvis. By the time of birth, your baby will weight around 3.5 kg although the birth weight can vary considerably amongst individuals. Congratulations on all your hard work over the last nine months as you’re finally about to get your reward.

Bringing a new life into this world can be exciting but also scary and confusing. For more detailed information on your baby’s growth please visit http://umm.edu/health/medical/ency/articles/fetal-development