If a picture is worth a thousand words, then in the case of fetal development, pictures speak life. Not only do photographs – such as the 1965 Life magazine photos by Lennart Nilsson – prove that each new human life begins at fertilization, but they also help people understand, more than words ever could, that preborn humans are completely separate human beings from their mothers. From the moment our lives begin, we are our own persons. At each stage of life – including the embryonic, fetal, and infant stages, and whether outside or inside the womb – a new, unique human being is developing.
Six to Seven Weeks Gestation
*All dating in this article is based on LMP, last menstrual period.
At six weeks gestation LMP, an embryo’s heart has already been beating for weeks, and it is now beating up to 160 times per minute. Blood is pumping through his body. His intestines, brain, muscles, and bones are all developing, and his nose, mouth, and ears are forming. At seven weeks, the hands and feet are more noticeable, as are the arms and legs.
Eight Weeks Gestation
At eight weeks LMP, the preborn baby’s neural pathways are beginning to form in the brain. Little hands and feet are continuing to develop, and the baby is quite active.
Nine to 10 Weeks Gestation
At nine weeks gestation LMP, the four chambers of the heart begin to divide, and heart valves begin forming. The organs, muscles, and nerves are all present and beginning to function. Teeth are forming, and the child’s eyes have formed but will remain fused shut until 27 weeks. Her earlobes, mouth, and nose continue to become more distinguishable. At 10 weeks, the most vital part of development has been completed, and the fetal period has begun.
16 Weeks Gestation
At 16 weeks LMP, the child can move every joint and limb, and she can sense light. Taste buds are developing, as are the lungs. Sex organs are more distinguishable and can often be seen on an ultrasound. Toenails are growing, and her heart is now pumping 25 quarts of blood a day.
18-20 Weeks Gestation
At 18 weeks LMP, the preborn child’s frequent movements can be large enough for the mother to feel kicks. Ears are in their final position on the head. At 20 weeks LMP, the preborn child is practicing swallowing, and his first bowel movement will begin to form in his intestines. This is considered the halfway mark of pregnancy.
From now on, the little fetus just needs time to grow and complete this stage of her life. Once she is born, her journey of development will continue. Babies born as early as 23 weeks gestation can survive outside the womb, and several babies, including Amillia Taylor, have survived even earlier. Upon seeing the evident humanity of children at such early ages, many of their parents have asked that abortions be banned earlier in pregnancy. Rachel Crockett‘s son Connor was born at 23 weeks, and twins Imogen and Annabelle also survived after being born at 23 weeks.
There is only one definitive moment in which a preborn human becomes a person – the moment of fertilization. Embryonic and fetal stages of development are still being studied, and the more we learn, the more apparent it becomes that every new, unique human life begins at fertilization.
*Editor’s Note: For this photo, and to view additional in utero photos of human development, please visit Lunar Caustic’s album here. The photos are licensed under a Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0).