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Prenatal Development & Psychology: Stages & Abnormal Development

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  • 0:04 Introduction
  • 0:45 Development from…
  • 2:15 Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • 3:30 Psychological Development
  • 4:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Paul Bautista
How is prenatal development related to psychology? How are minds forming in the womb still linked to the outside environment? This lesson explores the stages of prenatal development and a mother's ability to affect her unborn child.

Introduction

You're probably wondering how what happens to a baby before it's born is related to psychology. We typically think of babies' development inside their mothers as more physical than psychological. But since the brain is growing and changing during this time, healthy prenatal development is actually really important for giving babies healthy, properly-functioning minds. Think of it like a computer; long before a computer ever tries to run software, its hardware needs to be put together properly. If any of its wires are crossed or missing, the software won't run as well. If the development of the baby's body and brain are disrupted, it can affect the way a baby's mind, or software, runs on it later.

After about nine weeks, an embryo becomes a fetus.
fetus

Development from Zygote to Fetus

First, let's cover some of the basics. Each one of us starts out as a zygote, which is an egg cell that has been fertilized by sperm. Once fertilized, the egg cell begins to divide itself in two, then into four, then into eight--multiplying itself into a little cluster of cells. While all this is happening, the zygote heads down to the uterus and tries to attach itself to one of the walls. If it does (and only about half of them are successful!) it's called an embryo. This embryo continues to divide itself and grow larger, but something else really important and cool starts to happen as well: the cells begin a process known as differentiation, where they start to turn into all the different kinds of cells in our bodies--blood cells, skin cells, etc. The cells before differentiation are kind of like high school students. They all take basically the same subjects and earn the same high school diploma. But when they get to college, they start majoring in different subjects; one might turn into a biology major, and another into an English major. Students in college are more like the cells in an embryo after differentiation; they start to specialize in different subjects, or functions in the body.

After about nine weeks, the embryo is referred to as a fetus. All of foundations for the babies' major systems and functions have been laid, and the rest of the pregnancy is devoted to helping the fetus grow and fully develop. If all goes well, a healthy baby is born after about nine months!

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