Pregnancy Developmental summary


What's going on for baby?

How can parents and whānau help?

Changing and growing

Pregnancy is a time of constant growth and change — and not just for baby, but for māmā too. A baby grows so quickly — within the first 8 weeks they grow from one cell (at conception) to billions of cells. Their brain grows by about 250,000 brain cells a minute.

A baby moves around throughout the pregnancy. Mum will feel baby’s movements at about 20 weeks after conception.

  • Eating and drinking well is important for a pregnant māmā— try to include plenty of:
    • Fruit and vegetables
    • protein (meat, fish, eggs, cheese and yoghurt, and legumes such as beans, peas and lentils)
    • water
    • milk
    • vegetable and fruit juices.

Whānau can stroke mum’s puku — responding to baby’s movements lets them know you’re there.

Developing senses in the womb

Pregnancy can be an exciting time for the whānau especially when they realise how their baby’s senses are already developing the womb.

Touch is the first of the senses to begin to work in the unborn baby. They will touch the womb’s walls, the umbilical cord, and their own face and body and some babies will suck their thumb.

Their eyes can open and close and they will turn away from bright light coming through the walls of the womb.

In the third trimester, baby can hear sounds in the outside world. They will learn to recognise the voices of people close by, especially māmā and the sounds of the language their whānau speaks.  A baby will even ‘startle’ if there’s a loud, sudden noise.

At around 20 weeks’ gestation, baby begins to swallow and will taste the amniotic fluid they’re floating in. They can even taste the foods their māmā eats.  A baby will also get familiar with the daily routines of the whānau — especially mum’s and will notice when she’s active and when she’s resting.

  • Be aware that baby notices, and is sensitive to, the outside world.
  • Touch or massage mum’s puku when she feels baby moving to which baby may respond by kicking or changing position.
  • Protect baby from harm , avoid:
    • bright lights
    • sudden loud noises
    • loud music.
  • Talk, sing and read to their baby.
  • Eat a variety of foods so baby is introduced to different tastes.

Growing a new brain

An unborn baby shares everything with their māmā. They are completely dependent on her for nourishment, nurture and protection from all harm. Whatever she eats, drinks, smokes or feels, so does baby via the umbilical cord that connects māmā and baby’s circulation.

Their developing brain is influenced by what māmā is doing and how she is feeling. Her feelings affect baby’s emotional development — if she feels stressed, baby feels stressed too.

Whānau and friends play an important role in caring for the expectant parents and their unborn baby. If pāpā or māmā have worries, sharing them with their doctor, midwife, whānau and friends can help to ease their concerns.

  • De-stress by listening to music or doing gentle exercise such as:
    • walking
    • swimming
    • yoga.
  • Avoid things that are toxic or can cause long-term brain damage to baby, such as:
    • constant stressful situations
    • drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and misusing non-prescription drugs
    • eating raw meat, fish or poultry and soft cheeses
    • using strong household cleaners and garden chemicals
    • cleaning out the cat's litter box (or wear gloves for this activity).

Preparing for baby

A new baby in the womb is learning about the world they’ll be born into. When their whānau take good care of themselves, they’re also caring for their baby in a loving way and building an emotional connection with them.

New parents will experience a lot of emotions, ranging from joy and excitement to fear or worry. An unplanned or unwanted pregnancy or difficulty in becoming pregnant can all affect how a Mum feels towards her unborn baby. Pāpā may find it harder to build a connection with his unborn baby not experiencing all the physical changes that a māmā does.

Māmā may also feel an added responsibility as she is the key to keeping baby safe and protected so it can really help when pāpā can support her by also having a healthy lifestyle.

Now is the perfect time for whānau to talk about giving their baby the best start in life and the kind of parents they want to be.

  • Choose a midwife and keep antenatal appointments.
  • Find out about whānau traditions and beliefs about pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Talk about pregnancy and childbirth with trusted whānau and friends, and share worries and concerns.
  • Learn about the different stages of baby’s growth and development.
  • Understand that the bond between baby and their whānau starts as soon as they start thinking about, and talking to, their baby.
  • Talk, sing and read to baby in the language of their whānau.
  • Get to know baby as a real, unique person.


Pacific Parenting