Chapter 3: Prenatal Development and Birth


Prenatal Development and Birth

Chapter 3

The Development of Children (5 th ed.)

Cole, Cole & Lightfoot

Of all our existence, the 9 months we live inside the womb are the most eventful for our growth and development.

Cole, Cole & Lightfoot, p. 72

The Study of Prenatal


The developing organism can be affected by mothertobe’s health, habits, environment and lifestyle

Overview of the Journey

Prenatal Periods



Birth –The First



Prenatal Periods

Germinal period:

Conception to attachment (8-10 days later)

(single-cell zygote  multi-cell blastocyst)

Embryonic period

Attachment to end of 8 th week all major organs have taken primitive shape, gender is decided.

Critical period for problems in development of heart, lungs, brain and nervous system

Fetal period (fetus)

9 th week (ossification begins) until birth all major organs continue to develop

Fetal Development Timeline

10 th week: Intestines in place; breathing and jawopening movements

12 th week: Sexual characteristics; well-defined neck; sucking and swallowing movements

16 th week: Head erect and lower limbs well-developed

5 th month: As many nerve cells as it will ever have

7 th month: Eyes open and lungs capable of breathing

8 th month: Many folds of the brain present

9 th month: Brain more developed

 Fetus doubles its weight in the final weeks before birth

Critical Periods of Fetal Development

A fetus is most vulnerable when it is first forming

Prenatal Development of the Brain

Partner talk:

What does optimal brain development require in the first three months of prenatal life?

Fetal Sensory Capacities

 Sensing motion

 Sense of balance at 5 months

 Vision

 Responds to light (i.e., heart rate changes, increased movement) at 26 weeks

 Sound

 Responds at 5-6 months

 Can discriminate outside sounds, but hears mother’s voice best (i.e., changes in heart rate)

Maternal Conditions: Attitudes & Stress

Presence of a supportive mate and other family members, adequate housing, and steady employment give a woman a basic sense of security . This appears to enhance the prospects for a healthy baby

(Thompson, 1990)

Czech study : At birth, unwanted children weighed less and needed more medical help than children in the control group

Psychological stress during pregnancy is associated with premature delivery and low birth weight

(Hedegaard, 1993)

Premature Birth: Nutritional Intake

Yom Kippur: 24-hour food and water fast by orthodox Jews

Partner talk: How important is nutrition? Why?

Consequences of Premature Birth

Immaturity of the lungs is the leading cause of death for preemies. They can also have digestion and immunity problems

Premature babies who are normal size for their gestational age stand a good chance of catching up with full-term babies

Some children born prematurely have problems maintaining attention and with visual-motor coordination when they are school age

Maternal Conditions: Teratogens

Teratogens are everything in the environment that is ingested or breathed in that poisons the fetus.

All teratogens lead to birth defects, retardation, and/or mental disturbances to some degree.

Agent Orange - a toxic poison!

Agent Orange, is an environmental pollutant used during the Vietnam

War. It was an herbicide used to kill the jungle vegetation.

It caused many, many birth defects!

Triclosan (found in many antiperspirants) is

Agent Orange!


Increase in rate of spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, and neonatal death

Nicotine results in abnormal growth of the placenta

Similar effects from second-hand smoke!


Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Abnormally small head, underdeveloped brain, eye abnormalities, congenital heart disease, joint anomalies, malformations of the face

Most serious damage from alcohol caused in first weeks of pregnancy

This woman’s story is in National Geographic magazine.

It is the ONLY such article in NG! Search “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome”


Normal Brain

Fetal Alcohol

Syndrome Brain


Prescription medication: can pass to the fetus and damage its development

Caffeine : Increased spontaneous abortion and low birth weight

Marijuana : Low birth weight, premature; infants startle easily, have tremors, and sleep problems

Cocaine : Increased stillborn or premature, low birth weight, strokes, birth defects; infants irritable, uncoordinated, slow learners

Methadone & Heroin : Born addicted; likely to be premature, underweight, vulnerable to respiratory illness, tremors, irritable; infants have difficulty attending, poor motor control


Rubella (German measles): Can cause a syndrome of congenital heart disease, cataracts, deafness, and mental retardation in more than half of all babies born to mothers who suffer from the disease during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy

AIDS : Approximately 30% of the babies born to mothers who test positive for the AIDS virus acquire this disease

Also Rh incompatibility , radiation , pollution

Birth: The First

Bio-Social-Behavioral Shift

THIRD STAGE: Delivery of the placenta

Assessing Viability - how much life force in is the child?

Physical condition: Apgar Scale: rates the strength of the heart, respiration, muscles, reflexes and color within 5 minutes of birth

Neurological condition: Brazelton Neonatal

Assessment Scale:

Includes tests of infant reflexes, motor capacities, muscle tone, capacity for responding to objects and people, capacity to control own behavior, attention

These tests are good for determining necessity of medical intervention and indicate the potential for normal development.

Parent-Child Relationships

 Baby-ness :

Prominent forehead; large eyes below horizontal midline of face; round, full cheeks

Baby-ness seems to appeal to adults, to girls of 12 and 14, and boys between the ages of 14 and


Baby-ness creates the emotional responses necessary to form positive and healthy attachments in early infancy.

Partner Talk:

Get a partner …

Pick a number: 1, 2, or 3 …

Here are your topics:

1. List as 5 examples of the environment playing a significant role in prenatal development.

2. List some of the expectant parents’ responsibilities toward the health of their developing child.

3. What will you be sure to do, or not do, from now on?