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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 Oct 13, 2014

From the late 1960s to 1980, an estimated 600 miles of water pipes contaminated with a known
neurotoxin were installed in nearly 100 cities and towns in Massachusetts. Image: Boston Univ.


WHO Child Growth Charts




Contaminated water and pregnancy

Prenatal exposure to tetrachloroethylene (PCE) in drinking water may increase the risk of stillbirth and placental abruption, according to a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Health, compared 1,091 PCE-exposed pregnancies and 1,019 unexposed pregnancies among 1,766 women in Cape Cod, Ma., where water was contaminated from the late 1960s to the early 1980s after installation of vinyl-lined asbestos cement pipes.

PCE exposure was estimated using water-distribution system modeling software. Data on pregnancy complications were self-reported by mothers.

Of more than 2,000 pregnancies, 9 percent were complicated by pregnancy disorders associated with placental dysfunction.

Pregnancies among women with high PCE exposure had 2.38 times the risk of stillbirth and 1.35 times the risk of placental abruption, compared to unexposed pregnancies.

The study also found an elevated risk of vaginal bleeding in pregnancies where women had PCE exposure greater or equal to the median sample population.

Lead researcher Ann Aschengrau, who has led numerous prior studies on the health effects of PCE, said these findings support a small body of existing research indicating PCE exposure may impact placental function and fetal growth. However, further investigation of related disorders is needed, she added. Dr. Aschengrau is a professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH)

"We need to have a better understanding of the impact of this common drinking water contaminant on all aspects of pregnancy,"

Ann Aschengrau, professor of epidemiology, Boston University School of Public Health.

Researchers used data from the Cape Cod Family Health Study, a population-based retrospective study examining the influence of prenatal exposure to PCE-contaminated drinking water on multiple outcomes in pregnancy and childhood. Women were considered to be eligible for the study if they gave birth to at least one child between 1969 and 1983 while living in one of eight Cape Cod towns with contaminated pipes at the time of their child's birth.

The study found no link between PCE exposure and preeclampsia or "small-for-gestational-age" (SGA) infants.

"Our results suggest that prenatal PCE exposure is not associated with all obstetric complications, but may increase the risk of certain ones, including stillbirth and placental abruption," the study says.

Prenatal drinking water exposure to tetrachloroethylene (PCE) has been previously related to intrauterine growth restriction and stillbirth. Pathophysiologic and epidemiologic evidence linking these outcomes to certain other pregnancy complications, including placental abruption, preeclampsia, and small-for-gestational-age (SGA) (i.e., ischemic placental diseases), suggests that PCE exposure may also be associated with these events. We examined whether prenatal exposure to PCE-contaminated drinking water was associated with overall or individual ischemic placental diseases.

The study was conducted as part of BU's Superfund Research Program. Co-authors include: Dr. Shruthi Mahalingaiah, assistant professor at the BU School of Medicine; Michael Winter, associate director of the BUSPH Data Coordinating Center, and Jenny Carwile, postdoctoral associate in epidemiology at BUSPH.

The full study is available here: http://www.ehjournal.net/content/13/1/72

The Boston University School of Public Health, founded in 1976, offers degrees in eight concentrations, ranging from global health to community health sciences. BUSPH is dedicated to improve the health of local, national and international populations, particularly the disadvantaged, underserved and vulnerable, through excellence and innovation in education, research and service.

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