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

The Visible Embryo provides visual references for changes in fetal development throughout pregnancy and can be navigated via fetal development or maternal changes.

The National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development awarded Phase I and Phase II Small Business Innovative Research Grants to develop The Visible Embryo. Initally designed to evaluate the internet as a teaching tool for first year medical students, The Visible Embryo is linked to over 600 educational institutions and is viewed by more than one million visitors each month.

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 Feb 26, 2014

 

Spina Bifida Facts video.

Image Credit: Children's Hospital Philadelphia.






WHO Child Growth Charts

 

 

 

One in three women not taking folic acid before pregnancy

Research reveals less than 1 in 3 women take folic acid supplements before pregnancy to prevent spina bifida and other birth defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord (neural tube defects) — despite 1991 research showing such conditions could be prevented by increasing B-vitamin folic acid before pregnancy.

The study, carried out by Queen Mary's Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, London, UK and published in the journal PLOS ONE, questioned nearly half a million women attending antenatal screening between 1999 and 2012 in England and the Isle of Man.

The proportion of women taking folic acid supplements decreased from 35% in 1999-2001 to 31% in 2011-2012.


The study also showed strong ethnic variations with only 17% of Afro-Caribbean women, 20% of South Asian women and 25% of East Asian women taking folic acid supplements, compared with 35% of Caucasian women.

In addition, only 6% of women under 20 were taking folic acid supplements compared with 40% of women aged 35 to 39.

Women who had previously had a pregnancy involving neural tube defects were more likely to take folic acid supplements before pregnancy than women who had not, but still only half of them did (51%) in spite of their high risk of a recurrence.


Additionally, the proportion of women who started taking folic acid supplements after finding out they were pregnant increased from 45% to 62%. However, for the preventive benefits to be effective, folic acid supplements need to be taken before pregnancy.

"Each year in Britain there are about 1,000 pregnancies affected by spina bifida or other birth defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord. Most of these lead to a termination of pregnancy which is an agonising decision for couples who want a child." said Joan Morris, co-author and Professor of Medical Statistics at Queen Mary.


Over 70 countries, including the US and Australia, have introduced mandatory folic acid fortification to reduce the risk of women having a pregnancy affected with neural tube defects.

Despite recommendations from the Food Standards Agency to fortify flour with folic acid, and evidence that folic acid fortification is effective, neither the UK nor any other EU country has mandated this.


"The current UK policy of recommending women take folic acid supplements has failed and has also led to health inequalities among ethnic minorities and younger women. The Government should introduce mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid without delay." said Jonathan Bestwick, lead author and Lecturer in Medical Statistics at Queen Mary.

Professor Sir Nicholas Wald, a co-author from Queen Mary, who conducted the original research showing the protective effect of folic acid said: "It's a public health tragedy that in spite of the folic acid fortification initiative in many countries, the UK has not introduced mandatory folic acid fortification. The failure to fortify flour with folic acid is like having a polio vaccine and not using it."

Abstract
Background
Taking folic acid supplements before pregnancy to reduce the risk of a neural tube defect (NTD) is especially important in countries without universal folic acid fortification. The extent of folic acid supplementation among women who had antenatal screening for Down’s syndrome and NTDs at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, London between 1999 and 2012 was assessed.

Methods and Findings
466,860 women screened provided details on folic acid supplementation. The proportion of women who took folic acid supplements before pregnancy was determined according to year and characteristics of the women. The proportion of women taking folic acid supplements before pregnancy declined from 35% (95% CI 34%–35%) in 1999–2001 to 31% (30%–31%) in 2011–2012. 6% (5%–6%) of women aged under 20 took folic acid supplements before pregnancy compared with 40% of women aged between 35 and 39. Non-Caucasian women were less likely to take folic acid supplements before pregnancy than Caucasian women; Afro-Caribbean 17% (16%–17%), Oriental 25% (24%–25%) and South Asian 20% (20%–21%) compared with 35% (35%–35%) for Caucasian women. 51% (48%–55%) of women who previously had an NTD pregnancy took folic acid supplements before the current pregnancy.

Conclusions
The policy of folic acid supplementation is failing and has led to health inequalities. This study demonstrates the need to fortify flour and other cereal grain with folic acid in all countries of the world.

This research was carried out by the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, which is part of Queen Mary University of London, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry.

About Queen Mary University of London
Queen Mary University of London is one of the UK's leading research-focused higher education institutions with 17,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students.

A member of the Russell Group, QM is amongst the largest of the colleges of the University of London. QM's 4,000 staff deliver world-class degrees and research across 21 academic departments and institutes, within three Faculties: Science and Engineering; Humanities and Social Sciences; and the School of Medicine and Dentistry.