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Prenatal Development: What Babies Learn in the Womb

Everything starts the day your mum's egg meets your dad's sperm.

Four weeks later your little brain begins to form. Epidemiologist David

Barker says, that whilst developing inside our mother, we are receiving

postcards from the outside world. These postcards tell us if this world is

dangerous or safe, if food is plentiful or scarce. Knowing nothing else, we learn

from those messages. Let's watch what we experience and learn inside the womb

from the fetus perspective. Month 1: only 24 hours alive every bit of genetic

information is already present in a single cell: from our hair color to our

talent as a future pianist. Then we divide ourselves again and again. After

around a week we travel from the ovaries to the uterus where we then undergo the

great divide - splitting into two, half of which will become us while the other

half forms the placenta which brings us food and oxygen and carries away waste.

By week four we have developed into a small being that is growing at a rate of

1 million cells per second. Our spinal cord, heart and brain are now clearly

visible, even if we adjust the size of a poppyseed. Month 2: at about week four to

five our heart starts to beat and we are now ten thousand times bigger than we

were at conception. This is a crucial point in our neurological development as

our brain grows at a rate of around a hundred thousand cells each minute. If

our mother consumes alcohol and drugs or experiences extreme stress or trauma our

tiny brain can get damaged. This can lead to maths problems at school or even

schizophrenia some forty years later. If our mum stays healthy and can relax our

brain can develop to its full potential. We are now the size of a raspberry.

Month 3: at the beginning of month three we start to react to stimuli. Our

sense of smell is developing and exposure to toxins can make us cringe.

Our brain is continuing to grow very fast our Ears start forming and we can

soon hear our mum's heartbeat and voice speak. Still small enough we have plenty

of space to move inside the belly. Our mother's womb becomes our sensory

playground we learn to move our arms, stretch our fingers, smile or suck our

thumb. 75% of us are now showing a preference to use the right hand we are

now around the size of a lemon. Month 4: our head makes up about half our total

size. We learn to kick, pee and how to swallow. Our taste buds are developing. If

our mother eats a wide variety of things we learn to appreciate different tastes

and become less fussy eaters later in life. If we receive inadequate or poor

nutrients we adapt our physiology to sustain our development. This process is

also called fetal programming. Some researchers have found that this can

result in health problems such as obesity, heart conditions and diabetes

later in life. We are now around the size of a big tomato. Month 5: while earlier

our mums voice sounded muffled now it is starting to become clear. We are also

experiencing a big growth spurt and we start the development of our teeth and

our first real hair, fingernails, eyebrows and eyelashes. We are becoming more

active each day and enjoying flexing our tiny muscles. As we wriggle, kick and turn

our mother will start to feel as moving. If she responds we learned that for

every action there is a reaction. We are now around the size of a dragon fruit.

During this sixth month a major mark of brain development occurs. Our brains

cerebral cortex splits into two hemispheres. But it's also an exciting

month for our eyes which open for the first time. Even though we see only blurs

we start to respond to light. Some say it's good if our mum now takes us into

the sun. We are now starting to make simple facial expressions such as

forming a grin. We probably learn to communicate for the time when we are

born when we want to show our feelings. We are now around the size of a small

cauliflower. Month 7: we begin to develop regular intervals for sleeping and being

awake. The hair on our head is now clearly visible and our milk teeth have

formed under our gums. When we hear our mum speak we may respond with an

increased heartbeat and movement. Some researchers claim that we now begin to

learn language from hearing the voices from outside because once born we seem

to show a preference for our dads and mums native language. If we were to be

born now we would have a 90% chance of survival and arrived the size of a

pineapple. Month 8 we are now behaving like a newborn. Our brain is functional

and our nervous system ready. Our lungs are almost fully formed and we are

practicing breathing by inhaling and the amniotic fluid. Ee now spend almost all of

our time as sleep, maybe dreaming about our near future. In preparation for birth

most of us will have now turned upside down. To get through that tiny hole at

the end of the tunnel our bones and skull are still extremely flexible. Only

the immune system is still in its infancy.

It will take many months after birth until our internal body guards can fully

protect our health. We are now around the size of a melon.

Month 9: in the last month we keep practicing our motor skills and kicks.

When our mum laughs eat sweets or drinks an ice tea we might respond by bouncing

up and down. If we could already understand research papers we would now

hope that our mum can bring us to the world through natural birth which

protects us through a stronger immune system for life. The puzzle of what is

nurture and what is nature is now well underway and already shows a first image

of our character. The most important missing piece will be added in our early

childhood. At the end of the nine months we are around the size of a jackfruit.

After many hours of hard labour we will be welcomed into this world. Some

will then be instantly taken away for various checkup procedures and bathing.

But if we are lucky we will first spend some time with our mum. If placed on her

belly we will instinctively crawl to her

breast and then show us sucking skills. This makes us happy, full and feel safe.

The foundation for all future learning

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