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Growth And Development

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Conception takes place when the sperm fertilises the waiting egg. From conception to 4 weeks, the fertilised egg takes the name ‘zygote’ to which this zygote begins to divide into identical cells collecting into a small ball of cells as it moves down the fallopian tube and towards the uterus continuing its growth before it attaches itself to the thickest blood-rich section of the womb. This zygote over the next 35 to 40 weeks proceeds to develop into a baby. Within those 35 to 40 weeks a due date will be determined in referral to the first day of the last menstrual cycle of the new mother.

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As this zygote is continuing its growth and development inside the womb between week 4 and 8 the ball of cells is referred to as an embryo and is similar in size to a small seed. The embryo starts to divide into layers to which further develop into the most important parts of the baby. Firstly, the neural tube eventually forms the brain and spinal cord. The middle layer of the three consists of the early heart and circulatory system. The last layer encloses the start of the urinary and digestive system, concluding with the lungs. In weeks 4 and 5 the umbilical cord starts to prepare for the transfer of vitamins and remove any waste. In addition, at this time, the body begins to produce a hormone to which is identified through a home pregnancy test. Moving to week 6 the embryo has grown to the size of a lentil to which its head is much larger than the other parts of the developing body. The embryo has an average heart beat of 150 beats per minute being double that of an adults. The growth of the eyes, nose and ears start taking place as well as small protruding buds which are the beginning of the limbs. The brain is continuing to form at this stage too.

Between week 8 and 12 the developing embryo is now named a fetus. The buds have matured into limbs and although the fetus is 3cm in length, it is becoming very active. The kidneys, lungs, intestines, liver and brain are still continuing to grow and develop but are functional. The head is growing and is still very large in comparison to the rest of the body; being almost half the size of the entire fetus. The smaller and more complex factors start to shape; such as the hair and fingernails.

From week 10 to week 16 the fetus grown a considerable amount from 3cm to 10cm and weighing 100g; the average weight of a bar of soap. From week 16 to week 20 the baby will endure a quick spurt in their growth and development and consequently doubling in weight. Around this time; the circulatory system and urinary tract are fully functioning.

The baby has just undergone its growth spurt and is now around 26cm. Between 16 and 20 weeks vernix caseosa begins to develop. This fatty substance covers and protects the baby’s skin from the amniotic fluid for the remainder of time in the womb. The substance also assists with birthing. As from conception a healthy and nutritious diet is important for the growth and development of the baby inside the womb but around this time when the baby’s growth rate is rapid; a balanced diet is crucial.

From week 20 to between week 24 and 28 the baby has grown 10cms to 36cm and weighing in at 700-800 grams; the same as 3/4 a bag of sugar. After the huge growth spurt, the main organs and characteristics have developed and the functions inside the brain are continuing to develop. Around week 26 the baby begins to open their eyes and responds well to noises in the environment.

Between week 28 and 32 the baby has grown a little more; reaching 40cm and weighing around 1.3kg; a growth of around 4cm and a gain in weight of around 500 grams. The baby is now 5/10 weeks away from its due date, meaning that the lungs and digestive system are completely matured and functioning ready for birth. At week 30 the bladder starts to be used also in preparation for birth. A few weeks after the baby has opened its eyes; they start to use them and can differentiate the light and dark at this point in their growth. As the baby is still growing and becoming bigger the amount of protective fluid (amniotic) is reducing from around a litre at this moment in the pregnancy.

Finally, the last few weeks before birth, the baby will shift into a birthing arrangement and will be ready to be born. Babies can arrive slightly early or late but this won’t affect the child’s development as they are fully developed and ready for life. The movement of the baby into the birthing position proves uncomfortable for the mummy-to-be but this is just the baby getting ready.

Maintaining a nutritious diet during pregnancy is essential for the growth and development of the baby inside the womb by providing vitamins, minerals and fibre

During pregnancy; the mummy-to-be will have to partake in several tests to check the health of not only the baby but themselves too. During the early stages, a GP will check the BMI of the mother to ensure that they are of a healthy weight for their height and age. If their BMI is considered unhealthy then the GP may support weight loss during the pregnancy to keep both mum and baby healthy. At a GP appointment, a urine sample will usually be requested and checked for numerous factors including the appearance of protein. Protein in the urine can be a sign of infection and will need to be treated. In addition to a urine sample every antenatal appointment, blood pressure tests are taken too. An increase in blood pressure is referred to as pregnancy-induced hypertension which will be monitored with advice given on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle to maintain a healthy blood pressure.

Feel constantly tired

Cry often for no apparent reason

Feel panicky

Worry excessively about her own or the baby’s health

Have a lack of feeling for the baby

Have difficulty sleeping or eating

Have problems concentrating

Have frightening thoughts or fantasies

Feel an overwhelming sense of loss

Support is available by GPs and mental health professionals for mothers experiencing postnatal depression as well as methods like counselling, therapy and antidepressants to fight it.

Blood tests are not compulsory but are offered for the GP to check the health and safety of the baby and ensure that the pregnancy is safe. At around 8 to 12 weeks, blood tests are offered for infectious diseases including Diabetes, Rhesus disease, Anaemia, HIV, syphilis and Hepatitis B. Blood tests are also beneficial for the birth incase a blood transfusion is required; the test will show the GP which blood type the mother is.

Between 15 and 20 weeks a test can be taken from inside the womb. The test can be taken later than this stage in the pregnancy but this increases the risks of miscarriage. A sample of the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby is extracted with a needle using a process called Amniocentesis. This process can detect genetic conditions including Spina bifida, Sickle cell anaemia, Down’s syndrome and cystic fibrosis.

When the baby is inside the womb, it is still quite difficult to make those important tests to see whether they are healthy or not so many tests are taken once the baby is born to ensure the baby is happy and healthy – as well as the mother.

The very first test taken on the newborn is known as the Apgar score. Providing quick information to see if the baby has any conditions – meaning that the baby can be treated as soon as possible. The Apgar test analyses the colour of the baby’s skin, pulse, reflexes and responses, muscle tone and movement and respiration. Each section gaining a score from 0-2; the maximum score being 10 and meaning that the baby is in the best possible condition. 0 means a cause for concern, demonstrating no pulse, a blue colour all over, no responses and no breathing and medical attention is required as soon as possible.

During the first year of life Personal documentation begins to track progress throughout their early childhood. The Personal Child Health Record is filled in by health professionals, GP’s and parents – recording information such as height and weight and vaccinations that have been given. Either the child is taken to their GP or a health visitor will make an appointment to visit the child to evaluate them.

As a newborn; documentation will begin to monitor the baby’s weight and height, the baby’s heart rate, lungs, spine and genitals to check that there are no abnormalities and that everything has developed correctly. Movements and reflexes will be tested (including rooting; by rubbing the side of the baby’s cheek, the baby turns it head as if in search for a nipple and the Grasp reflex; when an object is placed on the baby’s palm, they grasp it automatically). Their eyes will be checked; whether they can follow an object and furthermore, the doctor will ensure that the baby is happy and being fed well.

From birth up until 10 days old, the mother receives help and advice from the midwife; being at home or in the hospital. After these 10 days the health visitor takes over and visits both mother and baby at home. According to Bruce, T and Meggitt, C (1999) Child Care and Education, second edition. Italy, Hodder and Stoughton. The health visitor makes these visits for the purpose of

offering advice on healthy and safety issues

checking that the baby is reaching milestones

offering support and advice on any emotional issues, making referrals if necessary

advising parents to attend a baby clinic

discussing immunisation timetables

putting the parents in touch with other local parents.

A check is organised when the baby is around 6 weeks old to ensure the recovery and progression is on track. This check visits a number of different things. Including the weight and length of the baby and the same with mum. Checks on the stitching (if any) and removal if necessary, as well as a smear test. These tests are a perfect opportunity for mum to relay any questions or concerns to the doctor. Perhaps relating to any pains and discomforts, vaginal discharges, significant change in their mood, changes in bladder control and any concerns after the child’s birth.

According to https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/baby-reviews/ At 9 months to one year old, another review should be carried out to evaluate the safety of the child (that safety is still achieved), diet (diet will have changed from milk/formula to solids by now), their language and their learning and their behaviour. Including how they are developing and whether they are achieving milestones. This is based on the Ages and Stages Questionnaire which is to be filled out before seeing the health visitor – to give them a better idea of the child’s development shown in both comfortable and familiar surroundings at home.

Even before the baby is conceived; the mother is responsible to keep healthy to ensure their baby can develop to its full potential. According to https://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/you-get-pregnant/preconception-health ‘There are some health conditions and risk factors that could affect a woman or her unborn baby if she becomes pregnant’. It is researched that pregnancies that aren’t planned run more risk of premature babies and a low birth weight. By combatting these health issues and risks before planning to have a baby, this will prevent the risk of future problems for the mother and the baby.

The main factor in order to stay healthy and give birth to a healthy baby is to cut out drinking alcohol and smoking. The toxins that are entering your body will also be entering the unborn baby too. Thats why a healthy balanced diet is also recommended and foods like raw fish and unpasteurised milk are to be avoided. Obesity is also a high risk factor during pregnancy for both mother and baby; so reaching a healthy weight before conceiving is very important. Vitamin C in your diet can strengthen you and your baby’s immune system, proteins and zinc in the foods you eat have shown to result in a healthy uterus and placenta.

Pharmacies or drug stores will stock supplements packed with the right amount of nutrition for mothers preconception and during pregnancy. A brand like Pregnacare stocks a ‘before conception’ supplement which according to https://www.vitabiotics.com/pregnacare/conception?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIwpOvzcvJ3AIVzLXtCh3a7QVDEAAYASAAEgKiYvD_BwE is ‘ideal for all women to help build nutritional stores before conception. Nutrient and vitamin formula, 100% drug and hormone free.’ This supplement provides the recommended level of Folic Acid. Folic Acid is important because it helps prevent neural tube defects which are serious birth defects to the spinal corn and the brain. As well as taking supplements; adjustments on current medication may need to be made because certain medications will not be able to be taken during pregnancy. The GP will be able to guide you on this.

https://www.babiesonline.com/articles/health/10riskfactors.asp says that ‘moderate exercise is helpful as it improves the mother’s mental state and can increase oxygen flow to the fetus.’ Lighter exercises like taking a walk, going swimming and yoga are most popular for pregnant women. It is important not to over-exert yourself, small changes such as taking the stairs instead of the lift and walking to the shop round the corner will increase yours and the babies health.

During the first trimester your activity can be just the same as it was before you were pregnant. These activities should NOT include risks of being hit (e.g by a football or activities like judo or boxing), falling over (e.g off a horse or a bike) or raising your temperature too much as all of these can be seriously dangerous. If you are not usually active, break yourself in slowly and build up comfortably.

In the second trimester; it may be best to stop those activities you could continue before and lower the intensities to smaller activities. Replace running with walking and cycling for yoga; as your bump is growing and high intensity activities will mean over-exertion.

In the last three months of pregnancy it is important to only exercise if you feel comfortable and healthy enough. Remember to never over-exert yourself and to always stop if you are in any pain or discomfort.

There are many things that can effect the development of your child during the first year of life and one of the main factors is diet and nutrition. From birth babies should be fed breast milk or special formula. Breast milk is highly recommended as it supplies a unique blend of nutrients containing the right amount of fats, carbohydrates and proteins for maximum cell growth and development. Breast milk consists of particular antibodies that when your baby becomes ill, will fight against those viruses and bacteria that they will pick up. If those antibodies are strong enough they will fight before signs of an illness are virus are present. Infants that are breastfed.

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