Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development

2011 Edition
| Editors: Sam Goldstein, Jack A. Naglieri

Prenatal Development

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-79061-9_2222



Prenatal development is defined as the process of growth and development within the womb from fertilization until birth. During this process, the zygote grows into an embryo and then a fetus.


In the process of fertilization, a sperm cell from the male and the ovum (egg) of the female join in the female’s fallopian tube in conception. The prenatal development that occurs during the 38 weeks of pregnancy is typically separated into three periods: (1) the germinal period (the period of the zygote), (2) the embryonic period (the period of the embryo), and (3) the fetal period (the period of the fetus). A different way to describe the passage of time in pregnancy is to use 3-month time periods, immediately following conception, called trimesters [1, 2, 3, 4].

The Germinal Period

The germinal period is the period of prenatal development that takes place in the first 2 weeks after conception. During this cell division, the...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Neuropsychology Laboratory - TC 904Ball State UniversityMuncieUSA