London Natural History Museum: The Miracle of Pregnancy

Wednesday, December 15, 2010
By Student Group

The 9th grade biology students recently traveled to London for a week-long field trip to many historical sites.  The students spent three hours exploring the Natural History Museum.  The following is the sixth in a series of posts written by the students to discuss what they learned.

by Leyla, Monica, and Sabrina

The freshman class of Staten Island Academy took an academic week long trip to the city of London.  While we were there, we were lucky enough to be able to visit the fascinating  Museum of Natural History.  Each of the students from the grade was sectioned off into smaller groups of three to visit a certain exhibit.  Our first stop at the museum was the Darwin Cocoon, an exhibit required for the whole grade to visit. Then our group was assigned to the Human Biology exhibit.  The main section of the exhibit that we focused on was the early parts and development of a fetus inside the mother’s womb.

In the Darwin Cocoon exhibit, there are over 70 million specimens ranging from plants to insects. These specimens are essential to the study of fighting malaria and climate change. One extremely intriguing part of the Cocoon exhibit was the the glass cases, which held hundreds of specimens. Walking through the Cocoon, our group took part in various activities throughout the exhibit. We were particularly interested in the hands on activities. One hands on activity that we all enjoyed was watching a brief video on a traveler packing to go to the Galapagos. In this activity, we were required to study the specimens and choose what we would be bringing on our journey, not only apparel wise, but what items we would need when studying and catching more specimens.

Our time in the Human Biology exhibit taught us a lot more about pregnancy than we thought we would ever learn. The process of pregnancy begins after copulation. A female ova merges with a male sperm cell, which is known as fertilization. One week after this happens, the embryo can only be classified as a ball of cells, more commonly known as a blastocyst. The location in which the placenta is formed is dependent on where this blastocyst lands in the uterus. The placenta is an organ made up of vascular tissue, and sustains the embryo before birth. It gives the embryo access to nutrients and other vital substances such as oxygen, which come from the mother’s blood through the umbilical cord. This placenta forms around the fourth week of pregnancy and it is also around this time that layers of cells start to form. These layers of cells will ultimately become some of the embryo’s organs such as it’s liver and pancreas, as well as it’s nervous system, skeleton, blood system, and muscles, among others.

It is around the sixth week of pregnancy that the embryo’s brain chambers begin to take shape, and in the seventh week the heart starts to break up into right and left chambers. There is continued growth in terms of nose, arms, legs, toes and ears throughout the eighth week, and in the ninth, the embryo begins to move. The tenth week is a very significant week, because it is the first week of the fetal stage.  Therefore, the embryo can now be classified as a fetus. During the eleventh week, the fetus’s bones become harder and it’s fingers and toes become separate. By the twelfth week, which is the final week of the first pregnancy trimester, the mother can most likely feel the fetus’s heartbeat, and it’s nervous system and kidneys are developing. The fetus would, at this point, be approximately two inches long.

From the fetal development, which is the third stage, as well as the last stage in the prenatal stages of development, the child is called a fetus. The following weeks up until the 16th week consist of the fetus developing hairs, nails, vocal cords, genitals, hardened bones, and a functioning liver and kidneys. Later on, into the 20th week, fat starts accumulating under the skin. Next, the heart starts pumping more amounts of blood each day, and the baby also starts experiencing hiccups. After these drastic changes take place, the process begins to slow down preparing for the upcoming birth of the child. As the 24th week approaches, eyelids and eyebrows form and the baby’s weight increases to about 1.3 pounds. While the process is slowing down, during the 28th week, the lungs are being prepared for birth and beginning to take their first couple of breaths of air. Ligaments start forming, as well as nostrils opening while the brain develops in the fetus at a fast rate. At this point the baby is fully able to open its eyes because the retinas have also been completely formed. Week 30, the baby becomes more aware of its surroundings. Such as light, sound, taste and smell, along with having the ability to sway from side to side.

Weeks 30-40, surprising details come about to the baby. Such as the baby is nearly 3 pounds when week 31 approaches; the head increases in size to accommodate the rapid growth of the brain, bone marrow is responsible for red blood cell production and the baby has the capability to produce tears. Continuing on to week 35, fat accumulations start regulating itself throughout the body by plumping up the arms and legs of the baby, hearing is fully developed, and the baby has grown to be so large that it is taking up most of the woman’s’ uterus. As the final weeks approach the baby is now ready to be delivered. When week 40 comes, the baby now has a full head of hair and is reaching or has reached the required weight for a healthy new born baby. A notable change from when your baby was a fetus to now a living child is that the woman’s circumference of head and abdomen are about the same size of the baby.

While we were at the exhibit, each one of us learned so many amazing facts that can really become useful when we grow up to become women.  Not only would we enjoy to learn more from the exhibit, but we would love to actually visit it again.  It had hands on activities that involved and interested every single one of us. The chance to actually visit this museum has been a great opportunity and a wonderful experience that has furthered our knowledge in the field of biology and human life.

How long does the actual birth of a child take?  What is the required weight for a baby to be considered healthy?


  • Anonymous

    Fabulous post you guys ! As a new aunt to a recently born baby, I was especially interested in this post.
    One of your questions interested me more then others, “What is the required weight for a baby to be considered healthy?” I like this question so much because my neice was born quite heavy.
    I did some research and found that a healthy weight for a new baby a healthy weight is at least five pounds. There are variations in this depending on how big the baby is.
    I also found that babies should gain about one pound five ounces every month for the first four months of its life to be healthy, and that by the time the child celebrates its first birthday it will be about tripple the weight it was when first born.
    Some babies do not gain this much weight, but depending on its size it may still be a healthy child.
    Larger born babies will gain more weight and need more food than a smaller child.
    Just like any other species, variations take place and there are standards for every variation of babies.

    I also found that expecting mothers should weight certain amounts during their pregnancy.
    The uteris of a pregnant woman is usually about one to two pounds heavy, and the amniotic fluid of the woman weighs another two to three pounds.
    Blood, body fluids, and fat and protein storage take up another fourteen to eighteen pounds for the average pregnant woman.

  • Anonymous

    I did some research on a newborn baby’s weight and found that if a child weighs less than five pounds and eight ounces is it considerd at risk. Some of the risks they face are health problems, disabilities, and even death. Some of the contributing factors are smoking unhealthy dietary plans, and excess weight gain.
    However, there are also dangers if a baby is born too heavy. When his or her weight exceeds nine pounds and two onces, the doctors pay special attention to the particular baby, even if there are no immediate signs of danger. A list of factors the doctors must consider before they say if there is a health danger to the baby’s weight are the size of the parents, the mother’s health and nutrition matinence during the pregnancy, and the baby’s health before being born.

  • Deirdre

    Since this post is about the baby inside the body of a women, I wanted to research ion what happens during labor. I learned that during labor, the first stage begins with contractions in the cervix, and ends when your cervix is fully dilated. This stage is split into two parts: early and active labor. Early labor consists of the first contractions and active labor occurs when the contractions become more intense and are closer together than before. Common speech for this phase is transition. The second stage is the pushing of the baby. The third and final stage begins right after the birth of your baby and ends with separation of the baby and placenta.

  • evagobio14

    Great Post Guys! I decided to research your first question a little more. “How long does the actual birth of a child take?” It turns out that woman can go into labor days or hours before their child is actually ready to come out. The first signs of labor is small contractions. These minor contractions can take up to days or hours depending on the woman. As a woman moves into the active labor stage, these contractions become much larger, more painful, and they come more frequnelty. This occurs because the baby is now moving its way down into the lower pelvis. This is when the water or amniotic sac may rupture, or the doctor may have to do it themself. The last step is delivery, which can occur after the active labor stage has happened and once the water has popped. How long the baby takes to come out depends on the position of the baby, the size of the baby, and the size of the mother. After the baby has been delivered, the placenta is delivered soon after.

  • Gurk_14

    Great post! I wanted to answer the question related to how long does it take for a child’s birth. Every woman and every pregnancy is not similar, depending on their first child labor may lasts around 12 to 24 hours and subsequent births are normally faster labors last around 8 or 11 hours. But that only depends on a “normal” birth labor.

  • Leyla

    I thought I would add a further question to the post: There are alternative forms of childbirth other than natural birth. What are they, and what are their risks and benefits?

  • Anonymous

    Great post guys!! I wanted to talk about premature babies who are born before they are expected. Premature babies, by definition, are babies that are born before the 37th week of pregnancy. The weight of the baby depends on how much it has developed. Some can weigh at least 5 pounds at birth, and some may only way a single pound, even less. Being the cousin of a baby born prematurely, I saw that prematurity is a dangerous thing for a baby, since it can cause many health problems for the newborn such as unusual development of organs, abnormal breathing, or the case exists where the baby just dies. The cause of prematurity is still being found, but scientists have some background in which some sort of microorganism (such as bacteria) can be the cause of this unusual birth defect. The March of Dimes is a foundation in which they try to stop and learn about premature babies, and reduce the number of premature babies that die just after childbirth. It is a wonderful foundation, and it holds a number of charity events per year. Prematurity is very unfortunate in babies, and some do not even see the full light of day.

    March of Dimes Website:

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