Researchers describe how the embryo is nourished from four weeks to term.
So much still needs to be learned about a fetus’ life in the uterus but the scientific journal Placenta recently published an article on how the embryo and later the fetus finds its nourishment during the 9 months of pregnancy.
The placenta is the organ that connects the fetus to the uterus permitting nutrients and gases to pass from maternal blood to the baby and then allowing the elimination of waste. The placenta is also in charge of fighting against internal infection and producing hormones, which allow the pregnancy to evolve.
In the initial days of pregnancy, secretions of the uterine glands nourish the embryo. By 11 weeks, the fetus receives its nutrients from maternal blood, which surrounds the cells of the placenta. The evolution of how the placenta begins nourishing the fetus is the object of this paper.
The researchers found that the cells of the glands of the endometrium store glucose in the form of glycogen, which is a sugar that is easily released. The glycogen arrives along with glycoproteins, which are converted, into amino acids (what proteins are made of) that the embryo needs to grow. Towards the end of the first semester the placenta take over.
Prof. Alpin, one of the authors of this paper, talks about how it is not only important for the mother-to-be to have a nutritionally balanced diet during pregnancy, but also before falling pregnant. This is because the nutrients are stored in the glands that will nourish the embryo in the initial stages of pregnancy.
After the first semester of pregnancy there is more of an emphasis on low molecular weight nutrients originating from maternal blood.
The research performed does not yet allow us to know exactly what to tell the pregnant woman to eat because we are just in the initial stages of understanding fetal nutrition, but it is evident that a woman’s lifestyle before and during pregnancy has a huge impact on the future health of the baby.