A baby’s brain is magnificent. The rate at which it develops is astronomical from the moment conception happens through the time of birth. The brain is the life source of the body. It communicates messages and tells the body what to do. The brain controls everything from a baby’s thinking skills to his perceptions. For the body to work properly, the brain undergoes significant development and changes throughout the entire gestational period.
During the first trimester, the baby’s brain structure, called the neural tube, begins to make rapid changes to form the spinal cord and brain. At just 3 weeks after conception, the brain cells are developed enough to send effective messages to each other. At this point, brain cells are multiplying at a rate of 250,000 cells per minute. No wonder your baby sleeps all the time.
During the second trimester, the rate at which the brain cells have been multiplying slows down. The brain begins to organize itself and starts to form the individual systems such as language, movement, vision, hearing and other primary systems in the body.
By the end of the third trimester, the baby’s brain cells have matured significantly. The connections between the brain cells have developed enough to where there is effective and rapid communication. As a result, the baby’s nervous system has matured and developed. But even though the brain develops at such an amazing pace in the womb, it is not totally developed at birth. Many of the connections that will help your baby develop crucial skills are created within the first 3 months after birth. This is why constant interaction and responsiveness with your baby is so important.
For your baby’s brain to develop normally, you must eat a nutritionally balanced diet during pregnancy. One of the main vitamins essential to prenatal brain development is omega-3 fatty acid. This is found primarily in flaxseeds, walnuts, salmon, shrimp and halibut. Folic acid is also important because it helps prevent spina bifida and other neural tube defects during pregnancy. Folic acid is found in leafy green vegetables, whole-grain breads, beans, fish and orange fruits. Check with your doctor about which fish are safe to eat during pregnancy.
Using toxic substances such as alcohol, nicotine and other illegal substances can be harmful to a developing fetus and may interfere with normal brain development, especially during the first trimester.
About the Author
Heidi Gonzales is a midwife, childbirth educator, doula, American Heart Association BLS instructor, author and editor for the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association e-mag.
She has attended over 60 births in Louisiana and has helped over 150 families through birth consultations. She volunteers as a childbirth educator at a pregnancy crisis center in Louisiana and also as an online career mentor.