After implantation, finger-like projections appear on the trophoblast called chorionic villi which are surrounded by the uterine tissue and maternal blood. The chorionic villi and uterine tissue become interdigitated with each other and jointly form a structural and functional unit between developing embryo (foetus) and maternal body called placenta. The placenta facilitates the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the embryo and also removal of carbon dioxide and excretory/waste materials produced by the embryo. The placenta is connected to the embryo through an umbilical cord which helps in the transport of substances to and from the embryo. Placenta also acts as an endocrine tissue and produces several hormones like human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), human placental lactogen (hPL), estrogens, progestogens, etc. In the later phase of pregnancy, a hormone called relaxin is also secreted by the ovary. Let us remember that hCG, hPL and relaxin are produced in women only during pregnancy. In addition, during pregnancy the levels of other hormones like estrogens, progestogens, cortisol, prolactin, thyroxine, etc., are increased several folds in the maternal blood. Increased production of these hormones is essential for supporting the fetal growth, metabolic changes in the mother and maintenance of pregnancy. Immediately implantation, the inner cell mass (embryo) differentiates into an outer layer called ectoderm and an inner layer called endoderm mesoderm soon appears between the ectoderm and the endoderm. The three layers give rise to all tissues (organs) in adults. It needs to be mentioned here that the inner cell mass contains certain cells called stem cells which have the potency to give rise to all the tissues and organs. What are the major features of embryonic development at various months of pregnancy? The human pregnancy lasts 9 months. Do you know for how many months pregrnancy last in dogs, elephants, cats? Find out. In human beings, after one month of pregnancy, the embryo’s heart is formed. The first sign of growing foetus may be noticed by listening to the heart sound carefully through the stethoscope. By the end of the second month of pregnancy, the foetus develops limbs and digits. By the end of 12 weeks (first trimester), most of the major organ systems are formed, for example, the limbs and external genital organs are well- developed. The first movements of the fetus and appearance of hair on the head are usually observed during the fifth month. By the end of about 24 weeks (end of second trimester), the body is covered with fine hair, eye-lids separate, and eyelashes are formed. By the end of nine months of pregnancy, the foetus is fully developed and is ready for delivery.
Parturition and lactation
The average duration of human pregnancy is about 9 months which is called the gestation period. Vigorous contraction of the uterus at the end of pregnancy causes expulsion/delivery of the foetus. This process of delivery of the foetus (childbirth) is called parturition. Parturition is induced by a complex neuroendocrine mechanism. The signals for parturition originate from the fully developed foetus and the placenta which induce mild uterine contractions called foetal ejection reflex. This triggers release of oxytocin from the maternal pituitary. Oxytocin acts on the uterine muscle and causes stronger uterine contractions, which in turn stimulates further secretion of oxytocin. The stimulatory reflex between the uterine contraction and oxytocin secretion continues
resulting in stronger and stronger contractions. This leads to expulsion of the baby out of the uterus through the birth canal – parturition. Soon after the infant is delivered. the placenta is also expelled out of the uterus. What do you think the doctors inject to induce delivery? The mammary glands of the female undergo differentiation during pregnancy and starts producing milk towards the end of pregnancy by the process called lactation. This helps the mother in feeding the new- born. The milk produced during the initial few days of lactation is called colostrum which contains several antibodies absolutely essential to develop resistance for the new-born babies. Breast-feeding during the initial period of infant growth is recommended by doctors for bringing up a healthy baby.