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Physical Development 
During the prenatal stage of a child's life, they go through a 
few major stages! Here we will discuss the embryonic stage and 
fetal stage of development! 
The embryonic stage all begins at birth and continues until the 
eighth week of pregnancy (Berk, 2013). It is important as a 
pregnant mother to remain as healthy as possible! This is 
because during this time, there are many cells diverging 
together to help form your babies spinal cord, ribs, lungs, and 
even pump blood into the heart in the first month of this stage 
(Berk, 2013)! In the second month, we continue to see massive 
amounts of development occurring within the embryo. Many of 
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the stages that we saw in the first month begin to become more distinct! In the second month we
see formation of the ears, eyes, jaw, neck arms, and legs (Berk, 2013)! We also see more specific 
improvements in the organs in the body.  
The fetal stage, while development slows down a bit, many developmental milestones occur 
physically in the fetus! After eight weeks onward to birth the child the fetus is beginning to make 
movements like bending their arms and curling their toes and there is about 25 changes in position 
an hour (Berk, 2013)! After awhile, the mother will be able to feel their child move! This can be 
extremely exciting for all mothers, first time and experienced mothers! Much of this movement 
means there is a sense of reaction indicating cognition, which we will also discuss (Berk, 2013)! 
Language Development 
While there is really no language development in the aspect of speaking is concerned, there are 
many beginnings to language! Before 24 weeks, the child can hear and distinguish voices that are 
familiar to those of strangers (Bravo, & Noya, 2014)! This can lead to a child to have the essential 
building blocks to language, even though they may not understand language as a whole.  
Language is something that fetuses do begin to learn while inside the womb! When mom 
talks, baby hears, and this give the child a understanding of mom's language and learn basic 
language structure and studies have show that as a mother speaks different parts of the brain 
react (Hepper, 2015)! 
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Cognitive Development 
Cognitively speaking, in the prenatal stage we see quite a bit 
of changes going on! Around 27 weeks, the cerebral cortex 
had developed enough to wear the fetus has more of an active 
part in their actions inside the womb (Bravo. & Noya, 2014). 
While breathing is still a concept the brain cannot control, the understanding of intentional 
movements occur. At the 20 week mark, many of the neurons in the brain are already set and after 
this, there is very little development of more (Berk, 2013). This means that at just 20 weeks, the 
child has all the neurons they need when they are born! 

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Social/Emotional Development 
During this time, our newly forming child is learning emotional and social cues through the mom and 
the world around her. At about 20 weeks gestation, the mother will start feeling fluttering, this 
means the baby is moving and reacting to sound (Groark, McCarthy, & Kirk, 2014). This development 
of hearing in the child allows for them to feel certain ways about certain sounds. A fetus will hear a 
loud truck drive by and react with a huge kick, or hear mom’s voice and move around in excitement. 
While these are basic forms of reaction, it indicates the beginning stages of emotional and social 
understanding. Social and emotional development in the prenatal stage can be affected by how the 
mother treats herself and the child during pregnancy. Many women understand that they should 
have proper nutrition and avoid negative things during their pregnancy such as teratogens. These 
are things that can have a negative effect of the brain and overall development of the fetus such 
as smoking, drinking alcohol, and poor prenatal care (Groark, McCarthy, & Kirk, 2014). These 
negative things can impact the brain, which impacts the development of social and emotional 
development, which is something that will not be seen until later in life. So it is extremely important 
to avoid these teratogens during pregnancy. 
Social and cultural Factors 
As mentioned previously, the mother and the world around her have a major influence on 
development. These fetuses hear what people are saying, how they are saying it, and tones and 
rhythms of language. Socially, this allows for the fetus to know the difference between their 
mother and other adults. As far as cultural factors affecting the prenatal time of development, how 
a pregnant woman lives and her culture or religion play a factor in fetal development. If a religion or 
culture dictates certain actions or procedures that occur during pregnancy, that can have no or 
effect on the fetus or even have negative impact in development depending on the traditions that 
come from different cultures all around the world. Certain cultural and religious aspects can affect 
the mother by causing stress which causes problems in prenatal development. For an example, if a 
mother is pregnant and she is not married, but her religious and cultural background dictates that 
she should have been prior to conception, she may get a lot of stress thrown her way. 
Possible Atypical Signs 
Many of the atypical signs that may be noticed is through the use of ultrasound technology by 
professionals.These professionals will therefore be able to assess any sort of issues that may arise 
developmentally as far as possible deformities or brain and heart issues. Some signs that you may 
also be able to notice as atypical will occur later on in pregnancy. For example, if there is a 
significant lack of movement, that may indicate possible issues with the developing child and should 
be addressed immediately! 
Strategy For Families 
It is so important that we as families do our best to 
ensure that our child the ability to develop effectively and 
be able to be born into the world very happy and healthy 
children! The best way to do this, is for expecting mothers 
to avoid any negative things that can harm the fetus’s 
environment, these are called ​teratogens​ (Berk, 2013). 
These teratogens include: smoking, consuming alcohol, drug 
use, and other severe outside influences that can 
negatively impact a fetus. These can possibly cause issues 
in birth weight, preterm birth, or even developmental 
issues such as fetal alcohol syndrome. What is important 
to understand is that in order for the fetus to remain 
healthy, mother must remain healthy!
Photo Retrieved from
Berk, L. E. (2013). ​Child development.​ (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. Retrieved from


Bravo, I. M., & Noya, M. (2014).​ Culture in prenatal development: Parental attitudes, availability of

care, expectations, values, and nutrition.​ Child & Youth Care Forum, 43(4), 521–538.


Groark, C., McCarthy, S. & Kirk, A. (2014). Early child development: From theory to practice

[Electronic version]. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/

Hepper, P. (2015). ​Behavior During the Prenatal Period: Adaptive for Development and Survival​. Child

Development Perspectives, 9(1), 38–43.