Great Video Depicting Development ‘Pre-Conception’ to Fetal Viability

Want to feel a sense of wonder and amazement, and instill that same sense in your children? A video on YouTube titled Amazing Animation of the Fetus Growing in the Womb [] offers a breathtaking and dramatic tour of fetal development from before fertilization of the egg to mid-late pregnancy, all in less than nine minutes.

Quite a number of parents that we know and trust have used this wonderful video with their children to great effect. It has the same impact on adults and parents as it does on children: wonder and amazement at the complexity of God’s design in the formation of the complex human person. How someone can watch this and not believe in God is a mystery to us. It calls to mind the words of the Psalmist:

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

(Psalms 139:13-16)

The video, which has no subtitles and no narration, contains no graphic or explicit material regarding sexual intercourse itself. It starts abruptly with sperm swimming (apparently in the upper vaginal, cervical, lower uterine area), and quickly follows their progress towards fertilization of the egg. It shows, without explanation, how fertilization/conception happens, and then offers a whirlwind tour of fetal development roughly up to the point of viability (where the infant could, with medical care, live outside the womb). It ends as abruptly as it started.

From what weve been able to determine, the video is a combination of new animation, still photography and video of actual fetuses in the womb, electron microscopy of the process of conception and of what is going on inside the ovum as it is being fertilized, and other elements.

To help parents use this video and explain it knowledgeably to your child, we offer below a detailed explanation of what you re watching on the video with careful notation of time markings in the video.

Since the video compresses approximately 24 to 26 weeks of development into less than nine minutes, we note the rough age of the unborn child next to the time count for the YouTube video. Please note that our calculation of the rough age does not correlate exactly how doctors count pregnancy. They count pregnancy from the date of the last menstruation; in contrast, below, we count from the time of fertilization/conception.

0:02 (1 to 2 Days before pregnancy) The video begins with the dash of millions of sperm through the vagina, cervix and uterus of the woman; the number of sperm gradually tends out as the race towards the ovum continues.

0:14 (Hours before pregnancy) When the sperm began to go through what looks like tall, wavy grass they are in the fallopian tube heading towards the ovum or egg.

0:30 The egg appears; notice the number of sperm is now considerably diminished, as many fail to make it to the vicinity of the ovum.

0:40 The sperm that approach the ovum try to penetrate the surface and thus fertilize it.

1:00 The successful sperm emits an enzyme that helps break down the barrier of the external wall of the ovum; however, science has demonstrated that the ovum is not passive, but rather opens a portal through which to receive the sperm, as if it has chosen this particular sperm.

1:20. The ovum seals off its exterior so that no other sperm can penetrate it; this is particularly symbolized by the changing color of the egg at 1:30.

1:38 (The moment of conception; the beginning of pregnancy) The fertilizing sperm penetrates the nucleus of the ovum and releases its critical load of chromosomes from the father to link with the chromosomes of the mother’s egg. An utterly new and unique human being is formed!

2:00 (Day 2-5) The cells within what is now called the blastocyst (a term used to describe the unborn child/fertilized ovum until it is implanted in the uterine wall) begin to multiply rapidly. Note in particular that because the blastocyst is not receiving any nutrition at this point, the cells divide but there is no growth in overall size; by the time it reaches the uterus, it has dozens of distinct cells in the shape of a hollow globe, but the entire unborn child is still no larger than the original ovum.

2:14 (Days 5-9; variable) The blastocyst makes its way down the fallopian tube towards the uterus; descending into the uterus at 2:25.

2:42 (Days 9-14) The blastocyst implants into the wall of the uterus and forms a placenta through which it receives nutrition from the uterine wall. The unborn child is now called an embryo.

3:15 (Week 3) This is a dramatic animation of the creation and development of what is called the “neural groove” that eventually becomes the spinal cord; it is fascinating that the nervous system is the most prominent system that begins to develop rapidly.

3:42 (Week 3-4) The vertebra begin to develop, and you begin to see at 3:49 that a beating heart is one of the very next organs to develop. Below the heart is a bulge of white nutritional material (like egg white) that is reabsorbed. Below this nutritional material is the umbilical cord is connected to the placenta and through it to the mother.

4:20 (Week 3-4) A dramatic depiction of formation of the heart muscle with cells specializing in contracting to pump blood.

4:35 (Week 4) The development of the arms is demonstrated; at this point there are no legs but the fetus does have a tail that later becomes the base of the spinal cord.

4:52 (Week 4-6) You can see the heart beating as it continues to develop, and the brain continues to explosively grow.

5:11 (Week 5-6) The beginnings of eye development. Explosive brain growth continues.

5:17 (Week 6-7) The differentiation of the fingers occurs, and the formation of ribs.

5:36 (Week 7) The beginning of leg and foot development.

5:55 (Week 7-8) Development of the embryo is now at a place where you begin to see a human face, with eyes, nose, mouth and ears.

6:20 (Week 7-10) Animation of the development of the eyes; the child continues to mature with increasingly humanlike features.

6:06 (Week 9-12) You begin to see the initial movement of the child, including the “breathing” of amniotic fluid in and out of the lungs. Somewhere at this stage of development, it is no longer called an embryo, but instead a fetus.

7:30 (from early weeks on) This is least effective part of the video: It is a simulation of the explosive neural development happening with the brain. The starfish-looking elements are neurons building connections to other neurons; the flashes of light simulate neural impulses down the axon and across synapses (the junctions between neurons). The sequence does give the beginning sense of the complexity of the human brain.

8:25 The child’s features are clearly human, and it moves vigorously.

The video ends at approximately 18 to 20 weeks of fetal age; the child is born at approximately 34 to 38 weeks of fetal age, the video shows and stops at the stage of development approximate halfway through the pregnancy.