Gestation and Parturition – Reproductive Immunology: Open Access
Gestation is the period of development during the carrying of an embryo, fetus, or reptilian embryo inside viviparous animals. It is typical for mammals, but also occurs for some non-mammals. Mammals during pregnancy can have one or more gestations at the same time, for example in a multiple birth. The time interval of a gestation is called the gestation period. In human obstetrics, gestational age refers to the fertilization age plus two weeks. This is approximately the duration since the woman's last menstrual period began.
Human pregnancy can be divided roughly into three trimesters, each approximately three months long. The first trimester is from the last period through the 13th week, the second trimester is 14th–27th week, and the third trimester is 28th–42nd week. Birth normally occurs at a gestational age of about 40 weeks, though it is common for births to occur from 37 to 42 weeks From the 9th week of pregnancy (11th week of gestational age), the embryo is called a fetus. Various factors can come into play in determining the duration of gestation. For humans, male fetuses normally gestate several days longer than females and multiple pregnancies gestate for a shorter period.
Parturition is not a decisive single-step terminal event. Preparation for parturition involves coordinated changes in both mother and fetus. The mother must develop the ability to produce and eject milk in order to feed the newborn. In some species, she must develop nest building or protective senses as well. Her uterus must be removed from progesterone influence and stimulated to undergo contraction. These and other events must be, and are, synchronized. Meanwhile, the fetus must develop the ability to respire air, to circulate blood to and from the lungs, to metabolize milk products, to regulate its own body temperature, immune protection from its new environment, and other essential functions. These events are coordinated by the fetus and they in turn are synchronized with the maternal changes.
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