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Welcome to The Visible Embryo, a comprehensive educational resource on human development from conception to birth.

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Today, The Visible Embryo is linked to over 600 educational institutions and is viewed by more than 1 million visitors each month. The field of early embryology has grown to include the identification of the stem cell as not only critical to organogenesis in the embryo, but equally critical to organ function and repair in the adult human. The identification and understanding of genetic malfunction, inflammatory responses, and the progression in chronic disease, begins with a grounding in primary cellular and systemic functions manifested in the study of the early embryo.

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Pregnancy Timeline by SemestersFetal liver is producing blood cellsHead may position into pelvisBrain convolutions beginFull TermWhite fat begins to be madeWhite fat begins to be madeHead may position into pelvisImmune system beginningImmune system beginningPeriod of rapid brain growthBrain convolutions beginLungs begin to produce surfactantSensory brain waves begin to activateSensory brain waves begin to activateInner Ear Bones HardenBone marrow starts making blood cellsBone marrow starts making blood cellsBrown fat surrounds lymphatic systemFetal sexual organs visibleFinger and toe prints appearFinger and toe prints appearHeartbeat can be detectedHeartbeat can be detectedBasic Brain Structure in PlaceThe Appearance of SomitesFirst Detectable Brain WavesA Four Chambered HeartBeginning Cerebral HemispheresFemale Reproductive SystemEnd of Embryonic PeriodEnd of Embryonic PeriodFirst Thin Layer of Skin AppearsThird TrimesterSecond TrimesterFirst TrimesterFertilizationDevelopmental Timeline
CLICK ON weeks 0 - 40 and follow along every 2 weeks of fetal development
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Home | Pregnancy Timeline | News Alerts | News Archive May 15, 2013

 
Born under-developed, preemies have an immature autonomic nervous system (ANS), which controls stress response and recovery. For a preemie, even a diaper change is stressful and the immature ANS over reacts to these stressors.






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Massage therapy improves stress response in preterm infants

Massage therapy may reduce stress in preterm infants by promoting autonomic nervous system development—particularly in male infants.

It seems that even for the smallest of people, a gentle massage may be beneficial. Newborn intensive care units (NICUs) are stressful environments for preterm infants; mechanical ventilation, medical procedures, caregiving activities and maternal separation create these stressful conditions.

Born under-developed, preemies have an immature autonomic nervous system (ANS), which controls stress response and recovery. For a preemie, even a diaper change is stressful and the immature ANS over reacts to these stressors. Since preterm infants can’t process stressors appropriately, interventions are needed to enhance ANS function and maturity.

A study published recently in Early Human Development, conducted by University of Louisville School of Nursing researcher Sandra Smith, PhD, and her team at the University of Utah, found massage therapy that involved moderate pressure and stroking of the soft tissues followed by flexing and extending the joints of the arms and legs increased heart rate variability (HRV) in male, but not in female preterm infants.


HRV is a measure of ANS function and development. Infants who are born at term gestation demonstrate increased HRV, but preemies typically show decreased HRV and an inability to appropriately respond to stressors. Massaged male preterm infants demonstrated increased HRV similar to term infants, which supports their ability to correctly respond to stressors.


Researchers measured HRV during periods of sleep and caregiving immediately after massage therapy at the end of the second week of study in 21 medically stable male and female preterm infants.

There was no difference in HRV between female preterm infants that received massage and those that did not. HRV increased weekly in the four male preterm infants that received massage therapy but did not increase in the male infants that did not receive massages. This finding suggests that massage enhanced development of the ANS in male preterm infants and may improve preterm infant response to stressful events.

Smith: “We were surprised to learn the differences in the impact of massage therapy on preterm boys and girls. Boys who received massage therapy demonstrated increased heart rate variability, but the therapy did not seem to affect HRV in girls – perhaps there are hormonal reasons for this difference.”

Smith said future research is needed with a larger sample of preterm infants to understand how massage therapy affects ANS development, and to determine the mechanisms by which massage therapy promotes ANS function in preterm infants.

The article, “Heart Rate Variability During Caregiving and Sleep after Massage Therapy in Preterm Infants” is available on-line: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3531576/

Original article: http://louisville.edu/nursing/news-archive/massage-therapy