Baby Brain Development in Pregnancy: Stages & Foods to Eat

Foetal Brain Development – Stages and Foods to Improve Development

It is fascinating to see how a baby already knows how to suck on a breast and swallow milk, along with various other behavioral patterns. The development of the brain is a key aspect in creating a fully functional human, and parents often wonder in which month the baby’s brain development during pregnancy begins. While the answer in itself is quite astounding, there are many factors that you need to be aware of to understand your baby’s brain development better.

Baby Brain Anatomy

Like any other adult human brain, the baby’s brain also consists of a few major sections that control all the activities required for the body to function properly.

1. Hypothalamus

The sensations that control hunger and thirst, along with the necessity to fall asleep and feel different emotions, all stem from the hypothalamus. Furthermore, it also is responsible for maintaining an optimal temperature of the body.

2. Pituitary Gland

Once a child is born, it needs to conduct a large amount of growth as quickly as possible to survive in the real world. A lot of this results from hormones that satisfy the requirements successfully by promoting growth, setting in place a proper metabolism, and carrying out various bodily activities. These major hormones are all secreted by this tiny gland, which is the size of a pea.

3. The Brain Stem

This may not be precisely considered as a separate part of the brain, but it is quite an important section nonetheless. The brain stem keeps the body truly alive by controlling the action of breathing in air, maintaining a constant heart rate, and regulating blood pressure.

4. Cerebellum

All the kicking around your baby does, the weird movements they so love, and the first steps they take are all a result of a properly functioning cerebellum. This section of the brain controls all the motor activities of a child.

5. Cerebrum

The largest of them, this section is big and includes the main cortex and the frontal and temporal lobes. These parts provide the functionality of feeling emotions, recalling memories, and carrying out the thinking processes.

Stages of Baby Brain Development in the Womb

While a child’s brain continues to grow even after birth, some of the major development occurs right within the womb during different phases of the mother’s pregnancy. Here’s how a fetal brain development timeline might look like.

1. First Trimester

Within a couple of weeks following conception, the neural plate of a fetus is already formed. This evolves to become the neural tube, which houses the future development of the brain. Simultaneously, tiny neural cells travel across the embryo and lay the initial pathways for the nerves. This gives rise to the initial movements of the baby within the womb.

2. Second Trimester

The second trimester initiates with the development of breathing patterns as well as various sucking impulses. Slowly and steadily, kicks and jabs will begin to take place as motor control sets in gradually. The nerves are protected by a cover of myelin, causing communication to set in rapidly and manifest in the form of blinking eyes and rapid heart rate. The myelin sheath starts developing in utero but is completed upto one year after birth. Sensory perception begins to evolve, with aural development taking the lead quickly. Your baby begins to sleep and dream as well.

3. Third Trimester

In the final phase, the networking of nerves reaches completion, and the brain weight begins to increase rapidly. The folds in its tissues begin to form, and motor control enhancement reaches its peak. While the cerebrum might be approaching a good size, its actual functioning begins only when the baby is out into the real world, triggered by the stimulus of the environment.

How to Improve Baby’s Brain Development During Pregnancy

To ensure a healthy and smart baby, we have put together a pregnancy food list for the baby’s brain development, which will help ensure that your little one gets the core elements without fail, along with a proper balanced and healthy diet.

Foods to Eat For a Healthy Fetal Brain Development

Besides the importance of prenatal vitamins for brain development, it is also necessary to include certain key elements in the diet that can provide the necessary support and even boost the brain’s growth in a child.

1. Zinc

This might be a trace element found in food sources but plays an essential role in brain development from an early stage.

What It Does

With progress in the child’s growth, the neurons and transmitters that are formed need extensive support to spread their network and make the brain cells stronger. The presence of zinc can prevent the occurrence of any behavioral or learning problems in a child.

Food Sources

Red meat, kidney beans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and even spinach are great sources to include zinc in your diet.

Food Sources of Zinc

2. Protein

A core element of a pregnant mother’s nutrition is also vital for the baby’s brain development.

What It Does

Protein-rich foods contain numerous amino acids that are required by various parts of the body. These also work to enhance the function of brain cells and develop a healthy brain in every aspect.

Food Sources

Eggs, legumes, fish, and lean meats are some of the best sources to satisfy your protein requirement.

Food Sources of Protein

3. Iodine

There is a reason why the government enforces the presence of iodine in the daily salts, which is connected to brain development directly.

What It Does

Right from the prenatal stage, iodine begins to work in carrying out the spinal cord development and connecting parts of the brain. Any deficiency in that regard can leave the child cognitively impaired and even set in premature delivery.

Food Sources

Apart from salt, strawberries and yogurt also contain iodine in good quantities.

Food Sources of Iodine

4. Iron

One might recommend iron for women to prevent premature deliveries, but it is also essential for the child’s neural development.

What It Does

The brain’s proper functioning is highly reliant on the neurons to transmit communication signals between them effectively. This is precisely what the presence of iron improves and enhances thoroughly. Iron is also essential for hemoglobin formation as hemoglobin carries oxygen to different parts of the body.

Food Sources

Spinach, raisins, and various lentils contain a good proportion of iron.

Food Sources of Iron

5. Choline

Many parents might not be aware of a nutrient such as this, but the proper development of the baby’s brain is highly dependent on its presence.

What It Does

The reduction in chances of defects in the formation of the baby’s neural tube and the foundation of memory and learning abilities are all a result of choline’s presence in substantial quantities. This is also why choline is generally termed a super nutrient.

Food Sources

Chicken, pork, and potatoes are great ways to introduce choline into your diet.

Food Sources of Choline

6. Folate

The number of times consumption of folate is stressed for a pregnant woman would be countless. And that is with good reason!

What It Does

Many babies are born with a malformed spinal cord or an incomplete brain, leading to major neural tube defects. Intake of folate can considerably reduce the chances of such defects, even before conceiving the child in the first place.

Food Sources

Beetroot, avocado, orange juice, and green leafy vegetables are friends of folate.

Food Sources of Folate

Factors That Are Harmful to The Baby’s Brain Development During Pregnancy

The factors that cause various fetal brain development problems can be as varied as the problems themselves.

1. Exposure to Toxic Substances

Even the simplest fumes emerging from cars and new paints can affect the fetus in various ways. Certain elements such as lead, arsenic, mercury are observed in paints used at home or newly polished furniture, all of which can be easily inhaled and lead to developmental problems in the child’s brain.

2. Presence of Rubella

While rubella might not be as harmful to the mother, its effects on the child within her womb are substantial. If a mother contracts rubella in the initial months of her pregnancy, the child can suffer from cataracts, deafness, and even be born retarded.

3. Pesticides

No matter how well you wash your vegetables before cooking them or eating them raw, the chances of pesticide exposure have never been as high as it currently is. Opting for organic food products is highly recommended.

4. Heroin Usage

Drug usage, in any case, is quite harmful. But heroin usage is quite dangerous since the baby can be born with a heroin dependency and even exhibit certain disorders in interacting socially with others.

5. Cocaine Usage

Unlike heroin, cocaine affects the physical development of the child’s brain directly. Such babies are born with a tiny skull, leading to extreme retardation or even fatal brain hemorrhage.

6. Marijuana Usage

While marijuana might be considered a recreational drug by many, its use during pregnancy is highly detrimental to the baby’s development, causing speech-related defects and memory problems.

7. Drugs for Epilepsy

Certain women with a propensity for epileptic attacks might be prescribed drugs, which need to be stopped or replaced during pregnancy since they can result in babies with a substantially lower IQ.

8. Exposure to Pollution

A check needs to be kept on the exposure to traffic-related pollution, and any pollutants present in the air since their inhalation can result in a child being born with autistic tendencies.

9. Alcohol Consumption

No rationalization around the amount of alcohol consumption is possible for a pregnant woman. Any amount can find its way directly to the baby via the placenta and lead to massive damage to the nascent nervous system.

10. Tobacco Usage

Whether via smoking or by chewing tobacco, nicotine affects the child just as much as it affects the adult brain. Such children can develop physical abnormalities such as being born cross-eyed or even have psychiatric issues later in life.

11. Reduced Sun Exposure

A mother who is primarily indoors throughout her pregnancy can risk multiple sclerosis in her fetus and a hindered nervous system development.

12. Psychiatric Issues in The Mother

Pregnant women suffering from depression or any psychiatric disorder are at a higher risk of transferring the same and affect the unborn baby’s brain development with various anomalies.

13. Presence of Stress

While stress is also related to the mother’s mental state, it can manifest in ways that can cause a woman to starve herself and prevent the baby from getting the nutrition it needs.

14. Medications

Once the pregnancy is detected, a woman is advised to stay away from medication as a general rule. Even the simplest medicines, such as aspirin, or any painkillers, have been known to affect brain development in the fetus fatally.

15. Deficiency of Vitamin D

While exposure to sunlight is one factor, the deficiency of vitamin D from other sources might end up in a child being born with respiratory issues and a possibility to suffer from language processing disorders ahead in life.

16. Deficiency of Folic Acid

Folic acid is highly stressed as a vital nutrient for a pregnant woman to include in her diet. Failure to do so causes the neural tube enclosing the brain and spinal cord to remain open, leading to numerous malformations.

17. Insufficient Nutrition

If certain elements are extremely vital, many others need to be present in the right quantities to proceed normally for the baby’s development. All of these elements ensure that the presence of other factors supporting the brain development continues to stay so, and their absence could affect the development of various skills in the child’s later life.

18. Premature Delivery

Many premature babies can properly survive after completing a specific number of weeks in the womb. However, their brain development does take a hit since most of it takes place within the mother’s body, causing such kids to exhibit poor performance in school.

19. The Job of The Father

Even if the mother keeps herself safe from harmful substances, the father’s exposure to certain elements can indirectly put the baby at risk. Such elements can either enter the body or affect the sperm to cause brain-related disorders.

20. Parental Age

A child conceived by parents older than 35 or 40 years old is at a higher risk of developing mental disorders. While some might be developmental, others could be psychiatric, causing severe behavioral issues in many cases.

Understanding prenatal brain development from conception to birth can leave you fascinated and stunned at the marvelous process that gives rise to a fully formed baby. However, your own support and vigilance are necessary to ensure that this magical journey doesn’t face any untoward problems.

Also Read: What are the Symptoms of a Healthy Baby during Pregnancy?

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