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Home Q & A Unborn Child

About the Unborn Child

On this page you will find information on when human life begins, milestones in the life of the unborn child, and resources for learning more about life in the womb. See also the related Questions and Answers page on the abortion for information on how and when the unborn children described here are killed by abortion.

When does life begin?

Biology is crystal clear that at the moment of conception (also known as fertilization), a unique organism comes into existence. Since this new life possesses human DNA and is the offspring of human parents, it can legitimately only be described as human life.

Since there can be no question that human zygotes, embryos and fetuses are alive, some have attempted to claim that human beings are not "persons," until some threshold is crossed, such as viability, the capacity to feel pain, birth, or even the first year after birth. The merits of such notions can be debated, but it should be clear that they are not based on science but rather on ideology, philosophy or belief.

As far as observable science is concerned, human life begins at conception.

What happens at the moment of conception?

At the moment of conception, a male sperm unites with a female ovum. The single-celled entity formed by the sperm and oocyte (egg) is known as a zygote.

At conception, the zygote has 23 pairs of chromosomes and approximately 50,000 genes from each parent, which combine to determine all of one's physical characteristics, including sex, facial features, body type, and color of hair, eyes, and skin.

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What's the difference between "fertilization" and "implantation"?

Fertilization, also known as conception, is described above. Fertilization occurs in the Fallopian tube.

After fertilization, the tiny human being travels down the fallopian tube. Implantation, which occurs 8 to 10 days after fertilization, refers to the point at which the baby (now scientifically referred to as an "embryo"), implants in the mother's uterus and begins to draw nourishment.

What are the various stages of development in the womb?

Many stages of prenatal development can be identified, especially in the early days and weeks of life when change takes place at an extremely rapid pace. The following are the primary stages:

To this list of stages of human development we might also add newborn, infant, toddler, child, adolescent, adult and senior—the continuum of human life which begins with conception.

Trimesters of pregnancy

Prenatal development and pregnancy can also be divided into trimesters:

Abortion is legal at all stages of pregnancy, from conception until the unborn baby's body is completely born, at which moment the child may no longer be legally killed.

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When does the unborn child's heart begin to beat?

A baby's heart begins to beat 18 days from conception, and by 21 days the heart is pumping blood through a closed circulatory system.

When can the unborn child's brain waves be detected?

A baby's brainwaves can be detected at 6 weeks from conception.

When do fingerprints appear on the unborn child's hands?

Fingerprints have formed on an unborn child's hands by 14 weeks from conception.

When can the unborn child feel pain?

By 9 weeks from conception, all the structures necessary for pain sensation are functioning.

A 2005 study published in JAMA and widely reported in the mainstream media claimed that fetuses do not feel pain before the third trimester. However, serious questions have been raised about this study, whose authors include a NARAL activist and an abortionists. This conflict of interest was not disclosed by JAMA.

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What are some of the other milestones of fetal development?

In addition to the unborn child's heartbeat, brainwaves, fingerprints and capacity to feel pain, other important milestones include:

How can I learn more about fetal development?

Many resources are available in print and online for learning more about fetal development. Some of the best books and websites include:

Books on Fetal Development

Websites on Fetal Development

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