Overview: Fetal Development

The following is a daily, weekly, and monthly description of what is happening in the uterus and the developing fetus from conception, which is two weeks after the last menstrual period. (The actual pregnancy began two weeks ago, on the first day of the woman's period. During the two weeks before conception the reproductive system was preparing for a pregnancy.) This is to be used as a general guide for healthy development. Development may vary among pregnancies due to mother's health. For more details and resources, check out these links:

Fetal Development | Pregnancy.org's Pregnancy Calendar

6 week fetusDay 1: Sperm joins with the ovum to form one cell smaller than a grain of salt. Twenty-three chromosomes from each parent join to form every detail of human development: sex, hair, eye color, height, skin tone, personality, emotional make-up, and other inherited characteristics.

Day 3-4: The fertilized egg is rapidly dividing as it travels down the fallopian tube into the uterus where for the last two weeks the lining has been preparing to receive the zygote.

Days 5-9: The zygote implants in the lining and begins to draw nourishment from the lining.

Days 10-14, Week 2: The zygote splits into two sets of cells, half become the placenta, which provides nourishment for the fetus and the other will become the fetus. Placental chemicals and hormones prevent the women from menstruating.

Day 20: The embryo is now the size of an apple seed. The placenta and umbilical cord are now functioning. The foundations for the brain, spinal cord and nervous system are established.

Day 21, Week 3: The heart begins to beat.

Day 28, Week 4: The backbone and muscles are forming. Arms, legs, eyes and ears have begun to show. Hair has begun to sprout.

Day 30: The embryo is 10,000 times larger than the original fertilized egg. The heart is pumping increasing quantities of blood through the circulatory system. The placenta forms a unique barrier that keeps the mother's blood separate while allowing food and oxygen to pass through to the embryo.

Day 35, Week 5: Five fingers can be discerned in the hand. The eyes darken as pigment is produced. The embryo is now the size of a raspberry.

Day 40: Brain waves can be detected and recorded.

6 week fetusWeek 6: The liver is now taking over the production of blood cells and the brain begins to control movement of muscles and organs.

Week 7: The uterus is about the size of a tennis ball. The embryo is moving continuously. The jaw forms, including teeth buds in the gums. The eyelids seal to protect the embryo's developing light-sensitive eyes.

8 week fetusWeek 8: Now a little more than an inch long, the fetus has everything found in a fully developed adult. The stomach produces digestive juices, the kidneys are functioning and genitals have begun to form. Forty muscle sets operate in conjunction with the nervous system and the fetus responds to touch.

Week 9: Fingerprints are already evident in the skin. The fetus will curve its fingers around an object placed in its palm. The fetus weighs about 1/2 ounce and is developing fingernails and hair.

10 week fetusWeek 10: The fetus can bend, stretch, make fists, open hands, lift its head, squint, swallow and wrinkle its forehead.

Week 11: The fetus is now two inches long. Urination occurs.

Week 12: The fetus now breaths amniotic fluid, sleeps, awakens, exercises, turns its head, curls its toes and opens and closes its mouth.

Week 13: Fine hair has begun to grow on the head, and sexual differentiation has become apparent.

16 week fetusWeek 16: The fetus is eight to ten inches in length and weighs a half pound or more. The women will probably begin to show now. The ears are functioning and can hear the mother's voice and heartbeat as well as external noises. The umbilical cord transports 300 quarts of fluids per day and completes a round trip of fluids every 30 seconds.

Week 17: The fetus rolls, sucks thumb or hand, kicks, and is learning to swallow.

Week 18: The fetus weighs about 7-9 ounces, and the mother will feel small movements.

Week 19: The fetus is growing a waxy coating called vernix, which coats and protects the skin, and makes delivery easier.

Week 20, month 5: The fetus is about 8-10 inches long, the mother is feeling stronger movement. The fetus may jump in reactions to startling or loud sounds.

Week 21/22: The fetus weighs about 1 lb.

Week 23: The mother may feel rhythmic jumping because the fetus may start hiccuping.

Week 24, Month 6: Oil and sweat glands are functioning. The fetus could be born in this month and could survive with proper care.

26 week fetusWeek 25/26: The fetus weighs about 1 1/2 lbs.

Week 27: The fetus will double or triple in weight between now and birth.

Week 28, Month 7: The fetus' hair and eyelashes are visible. The fetus now uses the senses of vision, hearing, taste and touch. He can recognize his mother's voice among other voices.

Week 29: The baby can see light through the walls of the womb and blinks a lot.

Week 30/31: Many babies have inverted to a head down position in the uterus now. The mother will probably begin to feel powerful kicks under her rib cage and the ball of the baby's head on the pelvic floor. Now measuring about 15-17 inches, the baby weighs about 4 lbs.

Week 32, month 8: The skin begins to thicken with a layer of fat stored underneath for insulation and nourishment. Antibodies increase, and the baby absorbs about a gallon of amniotic fluid per day. The woman's body completely replaces amniotic fluid every 3 hours.

Week 33: The baby may be up to 18 inches, and weigh 6-7 lbs.

Week 34: The baby's toenails have reached the tips of his toes. The umbilical cord is about 20 inches long.

Week 35: The baby's head will dip or drop into the pelvis, alleviating the women's difficulty in breathing. The uterus will begin small contractions called Braxton-Hicks.

Week 36/37, month 9: The baby weighs about 6-9 lbs. The heart is pumping 300 gallons of blood per day, he is fully capable of life outside the womb with minimal intervention. The baby's downy hair and vernix is absorbed into the amniotic fluid and swallowed by the baby, and will produce the baby's first bowel movement after birth.

newly bornWeek 38: The baby's heartbeat can be heard outside the womb, and is ready at any moment to come into the world.

Reprinted with permission from American Pregnancy Association. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.