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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Differentiate between the embryonic period and the fetal period
  • Briefly describe the process of sexual differentiation
  • Describe the fetal circulatory system and explain the role of the shunts
  • Trace the development of a fetus from the end of the embryonic period to birth

As you will recall, a developing human is called a fetus from the ninth week of gestation until birth. This 30-week period of development is marked by continued cell growth and differentiation, which fully develop the structures and functions of the immature organ systems formed during the embryonic period. The completion of fetal development results in a newborn who, although still immature in many ways, is capable of survival outside the womb.

Sexual differentiation

Sexual differentiation does not begin until the fetal period, during weeks 9–12. Embryonic males and females, though genetically distinguishable, are morphologically identical ( [link] ). Bipotential gonads, or gonads that can develop into male or female sexual organs, are connected to a central cavity called the cloaca via Müllerian ducts and Wolffian ducts. (The cloaca is an extension of the primitive gut.) Several events lead to sexual differentiation during this period.

During male fetal development, the bipotential gonads become the testes and associated epididymis. The Müllerian ducts degenerate. The Wolffian ducts become the vas deferens, and the cloaca becomes the urethra and rectum.

During female fetal development, the bipotential gonads develop into ovaries. The Wolffian ducts degenerate. The Müllerian ducts become the uterine tubes and uterus, and the cloaca divides and develops into a vagina, a urethra, and a rectum.

Sexual differentiation

This flow chart shows how the sexual organs develop in embryos. The left side of the flow chart shows the development of male organs and the right side of the flow chart shows the development of female organs.
Differentiation of the male and female reproductive systems does not occur until the fetal period of development.

The fetal circulatory system

During prenatal development, the fetal circulatory system is integrated with the placenta via the umbilical cord so that the fetus receives both oxygen and nutrients from the placenta. However, after childbirth, the umbilical cord is severed, and the newborn’s circulatory system must be reconfigured. When the heart first forms in the embryo, it exists as two parallel tubes derived from mesoderm and lined with endothelium, which then fuse together. As the embryo develops into a fetus, the tube-shaped heart folds and further differentiates into the four chambers present in a mature heart. Unlike a mature cardiovascular system, however, the fetal cardiovascular system also includes circulatory shortcuts, or shunts. A shunt    is an anatomical (or sometimes surgical) diversion that allows blood flow to bypass immature organs such as the lungs and liver until childbirth.

The placenta provides the fetus with necessary oxygen and nutrients via the umbilical vein. (Remember that veins carry blood toward the heart. In this case, the blood flowing to the fetal heart is oxygenated because it comes from the placenta. The respiratory system is immature and cannot yet oxygenate blood on its own.) From the umbilical vein, the oxygenated blood flows toward the inferior vena cava, all but bypassing the immature liver, via the ductus venosus    shunt ( [link] ). The liver receives just a trickle of blood, which is all that it needs in its immature, semifunctional state. Blood flows from the inferior vena cava to the right atrium, mixing with fetal venous blood along the way.

Questions & Answers

why should there be an inhibition to the process of gastric production in the intestinal
Gloria Reply
what is a stimuli
Emily Reply
environment factor that cause a cell to respond
Quran
name the two types of melanin
Laila Reply
deference between RNA and DNA
Ali
.DNA stands for Deoxyribonucleic Acid. The sugar portion of DNA is 2-Deoxyribose.RNA stands for Ribonucleic Acid.  The sugar portion of RNA is Ribose.2.The helix geometry of DNA is of B-Form (A or Z also present).The helix geometry of RNA is of A-Form.3.DNA is a double-stranded molecule consisting o
ryaisha
DNA consists of nucleotide but RNA consists of nucleoside DNA is double standard but RNA is single standard.In DNA at the nitrogen bases adinine,guanine,cytocin and thymine is present but in case of RNA instead of thymine uracil is present.
Tanveer
what are rdna
Budumari
what is a heart
walker Reply
A heart is an organ in the circulatory system that pumps blood throughout the systemic regions
bernard
what is anatomy
Aisha
Anatomy is the study of internal and external structures and the relationship among body parts. (the study of structure).
Tomi
what is the physiology of the heart
nadine
guys help me with a pathophysiology of asthma
Luyando
asthma is a lungs related disorder in which there is difficulty in breathing due to some allergic factors, their is inflamation of alveoli of respiratory part of lungs.also decreases the surface area.
Tanveer
what is meaning of brain strock and its types?
Tanveer
the pathophysiology of asthma is complex and involves airway inflammation and bronchial hyperresponsiveness pathogenesis of asthma
Omkar
skin infection please explain
Hamza Reply
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Akon Reply
cancerous cells 🙄
Sohan
yes benign is non-cancerous malignant is cancerous.
Joseph
that's a simple way of explaining it however you're different processes like mitosis etc a person can be at risk for developing cancer etc
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you can tell by an unusual growth of a mole, or change in size coloration with melanoma. which is abnormal growth of your squamous cells.
Joseph
Types of wandering connective tissues
Hassan Reply
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PASHALINA Reply
study of external structure of human body is known as anatomy
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arach Reply
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Anatomy which study's about the structure.
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external structure of body
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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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