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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 Sept 22, 2014

Findings from a British study of more than 4,000 children, have reopened the debate
about how much, if any, alcohol women should consume while carrying a child.

WHO Child Growth Charts




Prenatal alcohol linked to mental health problems

Children whose mothers drank four units of alcohol while pregnant, even once, were more likely to suffer from hyperactivity. These research findings have reopened the debate about how much alcohol pregnant women can consume.

Children of mothers who drink as little as four units of alcohol in a day even once while pregnant are at greater risk of developing mental health problems and doing less well at school, new research claims.

The study found that the 11-year-old offspring of women who consumed the equivalent of two medium-sized glasses of wine in one session during pregnancy are more likely to suffer from hyperactivity and inattention.

The findings, from a British study of more than 4,000 children in the Bristol area, have reopened the debate about how much, if any, alcohol women should consume while carrying a child.

The Department of Health advised pregnant women and those trying to conceive to remain abstinent. "If they do choose to drink, to minimise the risk to the baby, they should not drink more than one to two units of alcohol once or twice a week and should not get drunk," said a DoH spokesman.

Academics found that 11-year-olds born in 1991-92 to mothers who had drunk that amount one or more times in pregnancy had "slightly higher" levels of hyperactivity and inattention, in the opinion of both their parents and their teachers, who each filled out questionnaires.

Girls seemed to display hyperactivity and inattention more often than boys, the study found. Among 7,000 children in the study, those affected by their mother's prenatal drinking scored on average one point lower in key stage 2 exams taken in their last year at primary school, according to an analysis of results.

The lead author of the research, Professor Kapil Sayal of Nottingham University, added: "Women who are pregnant or who are planning to become pregnant should be aware of the possible risks associated with episodes of heavier drinking during pregnancy, even if this only occurs on an occasional basis.

"The consumption of four or more drinks in a day may increase the risk for hyperactivity and inattention problems and lower academic attainment even if daily average levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy are low."

However, children of women who had one drink a day while pregnant did not have any higher risk of either problem, Sayal and colleagues found.

The findings are from ongoing, long-term research called the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which followed and examined the health of children born to mothers from Avon in 1991-92, published in the journal European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the parenting charity NCT, said better awareness of the risks meant far fewer mothers-to-be now drink more than they should compared to when the children in this study were born.

Phipps adds: "According to the latest Infant Feeding Survey in 2010, only 3% of pregnant women reported drinking more than two units of alcohol per week on average, compared to 24% drinking four or more units a day at least once while they were pregnant in 1990-1992."

"Exposure to alcohol can lead to foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which manifests itself in a range of symptoms including hyperactivity, poor attention span and memory deficits, all of which can adversely impact on a child's ability to learn and socialise. So it's no surprise that this study found poor performance at school was linked to pre-natal drinking."

Katherine Brown, director, Institute of Alcohol Studies thinktank.

However, FASD gets little attention in the UK and there is "huge under recording" of how common it is, with symptoms often not picked up until children are at school and sometimes misdiagnosed, Brown added.

"Greater awareness is needed about the risks of drinking during pregnancy, with a clear message that no amount alcohol is safe. There also needs to be increased levels of support for those women who struggle to stop drinking due to dependency, and better diagnosis and treatment for babies with FASD."

Katherine Brown

Professor Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer for England and government's chief scientific adviser, is currently reviewing guidelines on safe levels of drinking, including in pregnancy.

The objective of the study is to investigate whether episodic binge pattern of alcohol consumption during pregnancy is independently associated with child mental health and academic outcomes. Using data from the prospective, population-based Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), we investigated the associations between binge patterns of alcohol consumption during pregnancy (≥4 drinks per day) and child mental health [as rated by both parent (n = 4,610) and teacher (n = 4,274)] and academic outcomes [based on examination results (n = 6,939)] at age 11 years. After adjusting for prenatal and postnatal risk factors, binge pattern of alcohol consumption (≥4 drinks in a day on at least one occasion) during pregnancy was associated with higher levels of mental health problems (especially hyperactivity/inattention) in girls at age 11 years, according to parental report. After disentangling binge-pattern and daily drinking, binge-pattern drinking was independently associated with teacher-rated hyperactivity/inattention and lower academic scores in both genders. Episodic drinking involving ≥4 drinks per day during pregnancy may increase risk for child mental health problems and lower academic attainment even if daily average levels of alcohol consumption are low. Episodic binge pattern of drinking appears to be a risk factor for these outcomes, especially hyperactivity and inattention problems, in the absence of daily drinking.

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