A-Z of your growing baby

Impress in your antenatal classes by learning everything about the little one inside your tum

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A is for…

Amniotic fluid

“This is the liquid that surrounds your baby in the womb,” explains Jo Disney-Spiers, supervisor of midwives at the Winchester & Eastleigh Healthcare Trust. “It’s produced by the placenta and protects and cushions your baby’s movements as she floats about.” It’s replenished by your baby swallowing the water and then weeing it out, which is kept clean and healthy by the placenta.

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B is for…

Blastocyst

This is the stage when your egg enters your womb and is ready to grow, roughly a week after it’s first fertilised. 

C is for…

Chorion

The amniotic sac holds the fluid your baby sits in. Its outer layer is made from a membrane called chorion. This membrane breaks when your baby is ready to be born, more commonly known as waters breaking.

D is for…

Dreams

Research has suggested unborn babies have periods of sleep known as REM, where the eyes move around under the eyelids. This type of sleep is when dreams might occur. Although you’ll never know what she’s dreaming of, we like to think it’s meeting her mum-to-be in a few months!

E is for…

Embryo

“This is the name given to the fertilised egg that becomes your baby,” explains Jo. “It’s known as this until she’s fully formed at 12 weeks.”

F is for…

Foetus

At the 12-week mark, your baby is now referred to as a foetus because, although she looks very small, her body is completely formed and just needs to grow larger. You’ll be able to see her teeny, tiny body at your first scan around this time.

G is for…

Gender

At your 20-week scan you can ask to find out if you’re expecting a girl or boy. Depending on the position of your little one this might not be possible though, and the prediction could still be wrong come b-day!

H is for…

Hearing

Your baby’s ears start to form at around 8 weeks, and by week 18 she can hear the sound of your body. Fast-forward to week 20, and chances are she’ll hear your voice from inside the womb, so keep chatting away as much as you like.

I is for…

Implantation

This is when your fertilised egg enters your womb and burrows itself into the lining, causing the placenta to start developing to support your baby.

J is for…

Jawbone

At just 10 weeks your baby’s face starts looking distinctly human, with her jawbone formed and in place, and buds for her milk teeth starting to develop. She’ll be up all night teething before you know it, mum!

K is for…

Kicks

Although it might be the odd boot in the bladder, it’s incredibly reassuring to get those tiny feet poking you as she moves her body around. “The first kick is the best feeling ever,” says Rachel Wood, 25, from Worksop, 6 months pregnant and mum to Billy, 2, and Maisy, 8 months. “It’s when it starts to feel real and you know there’s a baby in there and it’s not just a dream.”

L is for…

Lanugo

“This soft, downy hair covers your baby in the womb from about 22 weeks and disappears just before or just after birth,” says Jo. “Although it’s not really known what it does, we like to think it helps keep her warm while she’s growing inside you.”

M is for…

Meconium

Made up of substances she’s ingested during her nine months, this is your baby’s first poo. “It’s usually passed into her nappy within the first 24 hours of life,” explains Jo. “After the meconium, the stool becomes green then yellow in colour.”

N is for…

Neural tube

Tissue in the embryo grows into the neural tube that turns into your baby’s brain and spinal cord. This starts to develop at week five of pregnancy, and at birth, she’ll have between 15 and 33 billion brain cells.

O is for…

Ovaries

If she’s a girl, she’ll be born with all the eggs she’ll ever produce in her ovaries, which adds up to about 2 million.

P is for…

Placenta

Your baby’s life support system, the placenta, or afterbirth, allows nutrients and oxygen to pass from you to her.

Q is for…

Quickening

This is her first movement in the womb that you can feel. While some mums can feel something from 13 weeks, many don’t feel a flutter until nearer 18-20 weeks.

R is for…

Reflexes

“Your baby shows reflexes in the womb, like hiccups, which you may experience as regular jumping or jerking movements in your tummy,” says Jo. “Some babies are also known to jump about in the womb, especially if they’re startled.”

S is for…

Surfactant

This substance is produced in the womb to help prepare your baby for breathing when she’s born. If a baby is very premature, they’re sometimes given surfactant to help their breathing if they haven’t produced enough.

Tis for…

Thumb sucking

Your baby’s growing skin is very sensitive, so she frequently touches her face and might even pop her thumb into her mouth. “It was overwhelming to see Oliver on a scan the first time around, and was even better come 20 weeks when I saw he was sucking his thumb like a real person,” says Emma Sheppard, 21, from Worcestershire, mum to Oliver, 1.

U is for…

Umbilical cord

Around 20 inches in length, this cord carries blood between the placenta and your baby, and contains two arteries and a vein, which she receives oxygen and nutrients through.

V is for…

Vernix

A white lard-like substance, this covers her skin from 23 weeks of pregnancy, protecting it from being in amniotic fluid for too long. “It disappears just before birth, although some babies are born with vernix in their skin creases,” explains Jo. “Don’t panic, there’s no need to wash this off, as once absorbed, it’s an excellent moisturiser.”  

W is for…

Wharton’s Jelly

This clear jelly is found in the umbilical cord, keeping it springy.

X is for…

Chromosome

Each sperm is either an X female or Y male chromosome. If the female sperm reaches the egg first your baby will be a girl, and vice versa for the male sperm.

Y is for…

Yawning

Breathing movements and yawns can sometimes be seen on ultrasound scans. Both are normal and just a sign that your baby’s exercising ready for the birth when she’ll need to start taking breath for the first time.

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Z is for…

Zygote

This is the name of your newly fertilised egg, which develops into an embryo and then becomes a foetus. 

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