Development of the reproductive system

Image Caption : Genitalia of 12 Week Old Female Fetus : Animation of the female genitalia of a 12-week fetus. The genitalia of the fetus develop from week 4 and becomes external from week 8. Up until this point, the embryonic sex organs in boys and girls are identical. Whether a girl or boy will be born is determined by the steps that occur in the next few weeks. A girl is born when the urethral groove remains open and the initial protrusion shapes to become the clitoris. There are particles floating suggesting the fetus is in utero.

Fetal Health and Development

A normal pregnancy lasts nine months. Each three-month period of pregnancy is called a trimester. During each trimester, the fetus grows and develops. There are specific prenatal tests to monitor both the mother's health and fetal health during each trimester.

With modern technology, health professionals can

  • Detect birth defects
  • Identify problems that may affect childbirth
  • Correct some kinds of fetal problems before the baby is born

Prenatal Testing

Prenatal testing provides information about your baby's health before he or she is born. Some routine tests during pregnancy also check on your health. At your first prenatal visit, your healthcare provider will test for a number of things, including problems with your blood, signs of infections, and whether you are immune to rubella (German measles) and chickenpox.

Throughout your pregnancy, your healthcare provider may suggest a number of other tests, too. Some tests are suggested for all women, such as screenings for gestational diabetes, Down syndrome, and HIV. Other tests might be offered based on your:

  • Age
  • Personal or family health history
  • Ethnic background
  • Results of routine tests

Some tests are screening tests. They detect risks for or signs of possible health problems in you or your baby. Based on screening test results, your doctor might suggest diagnostic tests. Diagnostic tests confirm or rule out health problems in you or your baby.

Dept. of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health

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