Fetal development: The 1st trimester

Fetal development begins soon after conception. Find out how your baby grows and develops during the first trimester.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

You're pregnant. Congratulations! You'll undoubtedly spend the months ahead wondering how your baby is growing and developing. What does your baby look like? How big is he or she? When will you feel the first kick?

Fetal development typically follows a predictable course. Find out what happens during the first trimester by checking out this weekly calendar of events. Keep in mind that measurements are approximate.

Weeks 1 and 2: Getting ready

It might seem strange, but you're not actually pregnant the first week or two of the time allotted to your pregnancy. Yes, you read that correctly!

Conception typically occurs about two weeks after your last period begins. To calculate your due date, your health care provider will count ahead 40 weeks from the start of your last period. This means your period is counted as part of your pregnancy — even though you weren't pregnant at the time.

Week 3: Fertilization

The sperm and egg unite in one of your fallopian tubes to form a one-celled entity called a zygote. If more than one egg is released and fertilized, you might have multiple zygotes.

The zygote typically has 46 chromosomes — 23 from you and 23 from the father. These chromosomes help determine your baby's sex, traits such as eye and hair color, and, to some extent, personality and intelligence.

Soon after fertilization, the zygote travels down the fallopian tube toward the uterus. At the same time, it will begin dividing to form a cluster of cells resembling a tiny raspberry — a morula.

Week 4: Implantation

By the time it reaches the uterus, the rapidly dividing ball of cells — now known as a blastocyst — has separated into two sections.

The inner group of cells will become the embryo. The outer group will become the cells that nourish and protect it. On contact, the blastocyst will burrow into the uterine wall for nourishment. This process is called implantation.

The placenta, which will nourish your baby throughout the pregnancy, also begins to form.

Week 5: The embryonic period begins

The fifth week of pregnancy, or the third week after conception, marks the beginning of the embryonic period. This is when the baby's brain, spinal cord, heart and other organs begin to form.

The embryo is now made of three layers. The top layer — the ectoderm — will give rise to your baby's outermost layer of skin, central and peripheral nervous systems, eyes, inner ears, and many connective tissues.

Your baby's heart and a primitive circulatory system will form in the middle layer of cells — the mesoderm. This layer of cells will also serve as the foundation for your baby's bones, muscles, kidneys and much of the reproductive system.

The inner layer of cells — the endoderm — will become a simple tube lined with mucous membranes. Your baby's lungs, intestines and bladder will develop here.

By the end of this week, your baby is likely about the size of the tip of a pen.

Week 6: The neural tube closes

Growth is rapid this week. Just four weeks after conception, the neural tube along your baby's back is closing and your baby's heart is pumping blood.

Basic facial features will begin to appear, including passageways that will make up the inner ears and arches that will contribute to the jaw. Your baby's body begins to take on a C-shaped curvature. Small buds will soon become arms and legs.

Jul. 10, 2014 See more In-depth