Chapter 2: Genetics and Prenatal Development

Why learn about prenatal development and genetics?

Graphic of a fetus with umbilical cordPeople endure quite an incredible journey before they are born. Think about it—when the timing and conditions are just right, a tiny egg releases from ovulation and a single sperm out of hundreds of millions unite to begin the process of fertilization. Genetic material from the mother and father join together to form a completely new organism. This new organism has to continue to travel and implant in the uterine wall to continue to grow and thrive. It is not an easy feat. It still must grow and develop for approximately 268 days before it begins life outside of the womb.

Today we have more knowledge and technology than ever before that has an impact on this process. We are privy to tests that can give us a wealth of information even before we conceive. We have the ability to know the genetic make-up of an embryo before it is implanted in the womb. If you could choose all of the features of your future baby, would you? What would be the pros and cons of this? New parents also have the choice of the prenatal care that they receive and how they want to prepare for labor and delivery. As you can see, the choices that are made along the way and the unforeseen surprises make for a unique pregnancy and birth story.

This module explores this journey and the development process from the moment of conception to delivery.

What you’ll learn to do: explain the role of genetics in prenatal development

Graphic of person looking through magnifying glass at DNAIn this section, we will look at prenatal development and some of the ways in which heredity helps to shape the way we are. Heredity involves more than genetic information from our parents. According to evolutionary psychology, our genetic inheritance comes from the most adaptive genes of our ancestors. We will look at what happens genetically during conception and take a brief look at some genetic abnormalities. Before going into these topics, however, it is important to emphasize the interplay between heredity and the environment. Why are you the way you are? As you consider some of your features (height, weight, personality, health, etc.), ask yourself whether these features are a result of heredity, environmental factors, or both. Chances are, you can see the ways in which both heredity and environmental factors (such as lifestyle, diet, and so on) have contributed to these features.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Human Growth and Development Copyright © 2022 by Ryan Newton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book