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Fetal Development Timeline

Fetal Development Timeline
By Joy Juedes

Science consistently points to the fact that life begins at conception. But what happens after that? How is an unborn child "knit together" Psalm 139:13) in utero?

One of the most surprising things about fetal development is that nothing significantly new happens after 12 weeks after conception- the child simply gets bigger and matures. Nearly 90 percent of abortions are done before the twelfth week, when the child is supposedly "blood clots" (Mifeprex [mifepristone] pamphlet) or "pregnancy tissue," (Planned Parenthood document). The twentieth week is about the earliest partial-birth abortions are done. By that time, the baby could survive outside the womb.

Here is a nutshell timeline of a developing unborn child:

  • 7-14 days- Cells multiply and become specialized for muscular, neural, reproductive, skeletal, digestive, and circulatory functions.
  • 20 days- Eyes start to form
  • 22 days- Heart begins to beat
  • 23 days- Central nervous system begins to develop
  • 4 weeks- Skeleton forms and muscles develop, arms and legs begin to form
  • 5 weeks- Nose and mouth form
  • 6 weeks- Brain waves can be recorded
  • 8 weeks- All organs are present, complete, and functioning (except lungs- they follow a little later)
  • 8-10 weeks- Body is completely formed. Responds to touch, fingers and toes defined, has permanent fingerprints, baby can suck thumb
  • 8-13 weeks- The child's sex can be distinguished
  • 11-12weeks- Finger and toenails form, the child can make all facial expressions. All organ systems are working, the baby can feel pain
  • 15 weeks- "Fluff" appears on the baby's head, also has visible eyebrows, eyelashes
  • 16 weeks- Mother can feel the baby move, heart pumps six gallons of blood per day, very rapid growth. Can have REM (dream) sleep
  • 18 weeks- the child is now "complete," needing only more time to grow.
  • 22 weeks- Mother can feel the baby hiccup
  • 20-24 weeks- If born this young, the child could survive outside the womb

--From here the baby continues to grow and gain weight, his senses and motor skills becoming more refined.

When people realize that a "fetus" is a developing person with arms, legs and a beating heart, abortion supporters have their work cut out for them. Harrison Hickman, a pollster for the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (now NARAL Pro-Choice America), put it well: "Probably nothing has been as damaging to our cause as the advances in technology which have allowed pictures of the developing fetus, because people now talk about the fetus in much different terms than they did 15 years ago. They talk about it as a human being, which is not something that I have an easy answer on how to cure."

(Note: "From Conception to Birth: A Life Unfolds" by Alexander Tsiaras and Barry Werth is packed with powerful photographs and images following a baby's development. Recently California Right to Life was able to purchase a copy of this beautiful book, thanks to our generous supporters. We have used it in several presentations. Please contact the office if you would like to borrow this book.)

Works Cited

  • "Diary of an Unborn Baby."
  • Fact Sheet for Early Surgical Abortion. Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties: FORM #FS-28, revised 1/00.
  • "If you could see me now... I'm growing up quick!" The Repair Shop: Burbank, 1993.
  • "Mifeprex: The Early Option Pill. Danco Laboratories: New York, 2000.
  • "My Secret Life." Hayes Publishing Co., Inc.: Cincinnati, date n/a.
  • "What They Never Told You About the Facts of Life." Human Development Resource Council, Inc.: Norcross, Ga., revised 1997.
  • Wilke, J.C. Fetal development tract. Hayes Publishing Co, Inc.: Cincinnati, 1989.

California Right to Life Education Fund has copies of most of these references. Contact our office if you would like a copy, or several to share with friends.