The time a women spends being pregnant is often overlooked, especially when compared to the 18 years spend raising a child into adulthood. What people do not recognize is that the moment of conception all the way to labor is an incredibly short and crucial time in the development of a child that sets the stage for the 18+ years of care to come.
During pregnancy, both the mother and the child experience drastic changes physically. It all starts from the moment of conception, when a sperm and an egg combine to form a microscopic zygote that has not even made its way to the uterus. Once it establishes in the uterus it is known as an embryo. And by the end of the first trimester, the heart has been beating, various systems such as the nervous and digestive start to form, and the external genitalia becomes identifiable.
The first trimester is not only a time of change for the embryo, but the mother as well. As her body prepares to grow a child, her uterus expands, and her ligaments soften. She may experience morning sickness which is quite common and due to increased hormone levels or reduced blood sugar. In fact, The American Pregnancy Association states that,
More than 50% of pregnant women experience morning sickness.
As the pregnancy progresses into the second trimester at month four, the fetuses integumentary system starts to develop and by month five the lungs sacs will start to form as well. At this point, if a baby is born prematurely, there is a slight chance of survival and the child will require serious medical intervention in order to continue developing and start breathing without help. After the sixth month of development comes the third and final trimester, the organ systems finish developing, the baby accumulates fat, and is ready to exit the mothers womb and enter the world!
All of the fetal development also takes its toll on the mother. As the baby grows, her organs become compressed by the growing uterus, making it difficult to take deep breaths or eat large meals. The baby’s head may rest on her bladder prompting her to use the bathroom frequently. During the final trimester, as the baby prepares for birth, so does her uterus and she may experience Braxton Hicks contractions in the final days before delivery.
In the end, learning all of this material this semester has helped me see pregnancy from a different perspective and have a greater respect for the human body. It amazes me how something as microscopic as a zygote can develop into a fully functioning human being. The changes that the mother goes through as her baby develops seem frightening. When I learned about the organs being compressed as the uterus grows, I immediately became more empathetic to the mothers and the difficult experiences they endure in order to create life.
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