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How Do Babies Breathe In The Womb?

Breathing or respiration is the process of moving air into and out of the lungs to facilitate gaseous exchange. It is the mechanism by which oxygen enters the body, and carbon dioxide is expelled from the body. In other terms, breathing is important to sustain life and without respiration (natural or artificial), a human being can not survive for more than a few minutes. Babies do not take their first breath until after they are born. However, developing babies do need oxygen even in the womb.

So, how do babies breathe (or facilitate gaseous exchange) while in the womb?

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Lung development in the womb

The baby’s lung development in the womb is divided into 5 major stages

  • Stage 1 (3-5 weeks): the lungs begin to develop from layers of cells. A lung bud develops and then it splits into two (what later grow on to become the left and the right lungs).

  • Stage 2 (5-16 weeks): this is the stage when the lungs start to develop tree-like structure as observed in adult lungs. By 16 weeks, the bronchi and bronchioles are developed and tiny air sacs (alveoli) start to appear.

  • Stage 3 (16-26 weeks): the air sacs and blood vessels develop which will be needed to get the oxygen in the blood after birth.

  • Stage 4 (26 weeks until birth): surfactants are produced which ensure that the air sacs do not collapse after birth.

  • Stage 5 (32 weeks until adulthood): more surfactant is produced and the blood vessels and lung cells develop and increase in area to facilitate oxygen absorption.

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Breathing in the womb

Even after the baby’s lungs are developed in the womb, the baby is surrounded by amniotic fluid and hence even the lungs are filled with amniotic fluid. In the third trimester, babies do take practice breaths by filling the lungs with even more amniotic fluid, but it does not transfer oxygen into the baby’s body.

Since babies do not breathe until after birth, the oxygen requirement is met through the umbilical cord. After 5-6 weeks of pregnancy, the umbilical cord develops to directly deliver oxygen to the developing fetus. The umbilical cord is connected to the placenta and is responsible for delivering nutrients as well as oxygen-rich blood which is required for the baby’s growth in the womb.

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Thus, the mother breathes in oxygen for the baby, which is transferred to the baby through the umbilical cord. Similarly, the carbon dioxide in the baby’s body is expelled out through the mother. The umbilical cord has two separate veins and hence the stuff going inside the baby never mixes with the one coming out. Cloudnine is one of the leading hospitals in the country when it comes to pediatric and child care.

At Cloudnine, we provide a wide array of facilities and a diverse range of specialists to provide your child with the best possible treatment. We maintain international standards of pediatric care and we are one of the few hospitals in the country to provide a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). At Cloudnine Hospitals, we provide the highest quality of treatment and care to all our patients.

Must Read: Dehydration In Babies: Signs, Causes & Treatments.

You can also join our Cloudnine Community to discuss and get more information about - Foetal Growth, First Time Pregnancy.

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Want to consult the Best Pediatricians in India? Please find the links below.

  1. ‍Best Pediatricians in Bangalore
  2. Top Pediatricians in Chennai
  3. Best Pediatric Doctor in Mumbai
  4. Top Children’s Specialist near me in Pune
  5. Best Child Specialist doctor in Chandigarh
  6. Top Pediatrician near me in Gurgaon
  7. Best Pediatrician doctors in Noida

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