If you are expecting a birth of the first child, or if you would like to be helpful to a pregnant friend of a family member, here are a few basic things you should know about the prenatal care that would benefit the mother and the future child.
Before birth, the baby's organism forms during three stages. The first is the short germinal stage right after the conception till the implantation of the fertilized egg, or zygote, in the uterus, for about two weeks, while it travels through the fallopian tube - in half of all conceptions this stage is successful
(Arnett, 2012). The cells of the supportive structures in the uterus - amniotic sac, placenta, and umbilical cord - start to release a special hormone, HCG, which is detected by the mother’s body and lets it know that everything goes well.
In the next rudimentary embryonic stage, from the second to the eighth week after fertilization, it will become an embryo with a potential for further development of the organism. It has three layers of cells. The cells differentiate to execute different functions and start forming major organs, starting with a neural tube, and followed by the outer layer ectoderm (future skin and sense organs), middle layer mesoderm (like muscles and blood), and the layer of internal surfaces endoderm (later digestive system and lungs). By the end of this period, the eighth week, the embryo responds to touch, its liver produces blood, and the heart begins beating.
And finally, in the last and the longest fetal stage, the organism will develop as a fetus from ninth to thirty eighth weeks, during the seven remaining months. Most miscarriages occur at the beginning of this period, by the twelfth or thirteenth weeks, most commonly due to wrong formation of the support tissues or the embryo itself, or because of difficulties of implantation. If everything is alright, then genitals form and release sex hormones, and taste buds develop. The second and the third trimesters are characterized by a rapid increase in size of the fetus and gradual connecting of organs, muscles, and nervous system. The future mother feels movement of the fetus, which responds to music and familiar voices before week twenty four, by the end of the second trimester. For example, a mother can feel the little legs move in accordance with the rhythm. In the third and the last, two-thirds of weight is gained, the lungs develop fully; and the brain develops with accelerating speed - the fetus starts looking like a newborn.
It is important both for the expecting mother and the success in life of the future child to receive prenatal care - the healthcare provided during pregnancy. Get it early, go through all the checkups regularly, and follow the doctor’s advice. This may increase the chances of your baby to survive by five times. In any case, you should stop drinking alcohol and smoking, avoid other known toxins, and take folic acid every day of pregnancy
(CDC, 2018). Choose healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and foods low in saturated fat. Make sure you get enough iron and calcium. Drink plenty of water. Sleep a lot
(U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2021).
You can start bonding with your future child before birth. For example, if you and people who are close to you would start to talk and sing to the fetus regularly after the sixteenth week, the baby would be closer connected to you in the future. It is like tuning a musical instrument for harmony. Additionally, it can help with hearing, language recognition, future talking, and provide a feeling of safety
(Public Health Scotland, 2021).
Eating the healthiest foods of your culture will provide knowledge of what is available, edible, and good. Prenatal exposure to a taste of beneficial meals will help the future infant to enjoy healthy choices and adapt to the first solid foods
(Mennella J.A. at al, 2001). For example, many parents complain that their babies dislike eating healthy vegetables, and it could be not only for the lack of the adult’s teaching by example, but also because the mother did not eat enough during the months of carrying the baby. Leafy green and fruits are highly nutritious foods. If you eat them during pregnancy, your child will like fruits and vegetables later and will grow up healthier. It is like installing a software with a database of nutritional combinations and a friendly interface. Make sure these foods are enjoyable for both.
Arnett, J. J. (2012). Human Development: A Cultural Approach. United Kingdom: Pearson.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2021
Public Health Scotland, 2021
Julie A. Mennella, Coren P. Jagnow, Gary K. Beauchamp; Prenatal and Postnatal Flavor Learning by Human Infants. Pediatrics June 2001; 107 (6): e88. 10.1542/peds.107.6.e88
CDC. (2018, October 22). Women Need 400 mcg of Folic Acid Every Day. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/folicacid/features/folic-acid.html