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Development in Pregnancy

Pregnancy is the beginning of the development journey for your baby.

It is really interesting to know what is happening for your baby as he / she grows and gets ready to be born.

There are physical and emotional changes happening for you both.

  • Your baby begins to develop a sense of touch from early in pregnancy - by about 11 weeks pregnant your baby will be exploring using their mouth, hands and feet – they are already busy learning about the world around them.

    They are tuned in to the movements of their mum – often resting when mum is busy and they are ‘rocked to sleep’. Then waking up and being active when their mum is still and trying to rest!

    They like to touch the ‘sides’ of the womb helping them feel secure and connected.

    They can respond to pats, strokes and gentle pressure from their mum and other loved ones – in time they will even play a turn-taking game with you – it is like a first conversation!


  • By the time your baby is born they will already have learnt to recognise the voices of loved ones. They will already know the difference between;

    • Feeling good – when you feel happy and relaxed, and
    • Feeling bad – when you feel upset or worried.                          

    Your baby is learning about feelings. They are learning to recognise who makes them feel safe and secure and who makes them feel worried or scared.

    At about 18 weeks into pregnancy your baby begins to be able to hear the sounds in the womb like your heart beating and rumbling tummy. From then they will begin to pick out familiar sounds from outside the womb – starting with their mum’s voice and then other familiar adults such as; another parent, partners, brothers or sisters. They have a lot of ’sound proofing’ and can hear things at about half the volume we are hearing at.

    Give your baby lots of opportunity to hear loved ones voices by talking, reading and singing to them. It is a good way to help them develop their new skills and get ready to meet you all.

    By the time you are 26 to 28 weeks pregnant your baby will respond to voices they know and tunes that they hear. This is so good for your baby;

    • They can be reassured by familiar sounds once they are born
    • They already have a bond with their loved ones to build on.

    We know that it is really important unborn babies are around healthy relationships as they can feel frightened by shouting and angry voices. They are affected by any stress or upset their mum goes through.

  • By 16 weeks babies notice the differences in light and dark. The womb is mostly dark and your baby does not have the chance to see things clearly before they are born. Although only a little light gets through to the baby it helps the eyes develop – so try and get outside in the daylight every day. By 28 weeks of pregnancy they can open their eyes.

    Sight is the last sense to fully develop and continues to develop after birth - everything is a little ‘fuzzy’ for babies to begin with.

  • By three months pregnant the taste buds are fully formed. Babies get a ‘flavour’ of what their mum eats via the ‘waters’ (amniotic fluid) in the womb. There is some research to say that babies seem to recognise and prefer tastes they ‘remember’ from the womb – another good reason to eat your 5 a day!

  • Baby’s can ‘smell’ in the womb from about 28 weeks onwards. They can smell the different scents their mum breathes in as they travel through mum’s blood stream via the placenta and pass into the amniotic fluid (waters). Science has shown that babies react to familiar smells as soon as they are born.

  • Babies start to move their head and neck from about 10 weeks into pregnancy and you might start to feel them moving from around 18 weeks of pregnancy. This is often later in first pregnancies (because you don’t know what to expect) and can depend on the position of your placenta – if the placenta is at the front you may feel less movement.

    The kicking and wriggling helps increase bone strength and develops muscles.

    Some recent research from scientists at Imperial College London showed from 20 to 30 weeks gestation an unborn baby’s kick strength nearly doubles.

    What is very important is that you get used to what is the normal movement pattern for your baby and get advice from your midwifery team if you notice any difference or feel worried. There is more information on this from the NHS *here*.


  • At around 5 – 8 weeks of gestation your baby is the size of a cherry – it continues to grow until it is about the size of a watermelon at around 40 weeks.

    The professionals caring for you throughout your pregnancy will keep a close eye on how well your baby is growing as the weeks go by. They do this by sometimes using scans and by measuring your uterus at appointments from about 24 weeks.

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

Young people aged 11-19 can text Chat Health on 07480 635060


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