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| This page shows some key events of human development during the fetal period (weeks 9 to 37) following fertilization. The long Fetal period (4x the embryonic period) is a time of extensive growth in size and mass as well as ongoing differentiation of organ systems established in the embryonic period. Clinically this period is generally described as the Second Trimester and Third Trimester. Many of the critical measurements of growth are now carried out by ultrasound and this period ends at birth.
Many different systems formed in the embryonic period (organogenesis) grow and differentiate further during the fetal period and do so at different times. For example, the brain continues to grow and develop extensively during this period (and postnatally), the respiratory system differentiates (and completes only just before birth), the urogenital system further differentiates between male/female, endocrine and gastrointestinal tract begins to function. Also consider the systems (respiratory, cardiac, neural) that will still not have their final organization and function determined until after birth.
|Changing fetal proportions, not size growth.||Use the links below to get more detailed information about this period of development.|
- Fetal Links: Introduction | Week 10 | Week 12 | Second Trimester | Third Trimester | Fetal Blood Sampling | Birth-Weight | Fetal Origins Hypothesis | Fetal Growth Restriction | BGD Practical | Medicine Lecture | Science Lecture | Preterm Birth | Birth | Category:Human Fetus
- Fetal Graphs: Crown-Rump Length (CRL) | Third trimester CRL | Head Circumference | Head Circumference 2nd Trimester | Liver Weight | Pancreas Weight | Thymus Weight | Small Intestine Length | Large Intestine Length | Length and Weight Changes | Fetal Development
Some Recent Findings
- Second Trimester
- Week 12 - CRL 85 mm, femur length 15 mm, biparietal diameter 25 mm.
Then look in detail at the head development in a 12 week fetus showing both forms of ossification in the skull.
Fetal Head Growth
- Vibration acoustically of maternal abdominal wall induces startle respone in fetus.
- Month 7 - respiratory bronchioles proliferate and end in alveolar ducts and sacs.
- Week 37 to 38 Birth.
- Links: Third Trimester
- HPA axis established by week 20
- Pituitary functional throughout fetal development
- required for metabolic activity, also in the newborn
- important for neural development
- newborn has total calcium levels (approx 20 grams) accumulated mainly in the 3rd trimester (weeks 28–40)
- fetal parathyroid hormone (PTH) potentially available from 10–12 weeks and PTH does not cross the placenta
- fetus relatively hypercalcemic, active transplacental transport of Ca2+ to fetus
- maternal serum - calcium ions (Ca2+), inorganic phosphate (Pi) and PTH concentrations are within the non-pregnant normal range throughout pregnancy.
- maternal bone turnover increases in the 3rd trimester.
- maternal diabetes can affect fetal pancreas development (increase in fetal islet beta cells).
- testosterone - required during fetal development for external genital development and internal genital tract in male.
- estrogens - secreted inactive precursor converted to active form by placenta.
- Links: Endocrine System Development | Endocrinology - Control of steroid production in the fetal gonads | Neuroscience - The Effect of Sex Hormones on Neural Circuitry
Fetal developmental features include: the growth and rotation of intestines initially herniated outside the ventral body wall; changes in mesenteries; development of the blood supply and tract wall.
The initial functions of the tract with amionic fluid swallowing and the accumulation of both secretions and swallowed components within the large intestine as meconium.
Fetal Surgical Procedures
There are a range of fatal abnormalities that are potentially amenable to surgical intervention, see recent review link Maternal-Fetal Surgical Procedures.
Some examples include:
- Cardiac Malformations
- Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia
- Myelomeningocele/Spina Bifida
- Obstructive Uropathy
- Sacrococcygeal Teratoma
- Thoracic Lesions
- Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome
- Links: Maternal-Fetal Surgical Procedures. Walsh WF, Chescheir NC, Gillam-Krakauer M, et al. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2011 Apr. (Comparative Effectiveness Technical Briefs, No. 5.) Report | Comparative Effectiveness Research, Health Care
- ↑ Osman Sulak, Gülnur Ozgüner, Mehmet Ali Malas Size and location of the kidneys during the fetal period. Surg Radiol Anat: 2011, 33(5);381-8 PMID:21110022
- ↑ Hitoshi Ishimoto, Robert B Jaffe Development and function of the human fetal adrenal cortex: a key component in the feto-placental unit. Endocr. Rev.: 2011, 32(3);317-55 PMID:21051591
- Fetal assessment during pregnancy. Farley D, Dudley DJ. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2009 Jun;56(3):489-504, Table of Contents. Review. PMID: 19501688
- Regimens of fetal surveillance for impaired fetal growth. Grivell RM, Wong L, Bhatia V. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 Jan 21;(1):CD007113. Review. PMID: 19160321
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- Dr Mark Hill 2013, UNSW Embryology ISBN: 978 0 7334 2609 4 - UNSW CRICOS Provider Code No. 00098G