Fetal Development : “it’s all about getting excited”


vietnam-those-pregnancy-woman-157925A mother’s joy and happiness begins when a new life starts growing inside her tummy.  After confirming the news, a pregnant mother is curious about the life inside the tummy. During the first visit with the Gynecologist a pregnant mother will get to listen to the heartbeat of her child. That moment will be a very emotional and a touching moment one can ever experience in her life.

It is always good to have an idea about the fetal development or the life growing inside. That will help you to be actively connected with the baby even before she is born. Most of the ladies are inquisitive about the fetal growth, basically the conversion of a fetus to a baby inside the tummy.

Glimpse of the fetal development

First Trimester :

2-RiyaDuring the first 2 months of the pregnancy, baby will grow to a fetus_10weeks_wikimediacommons_lunarcausticembryo which will eventually develop into a baby. During week 5 and 6, baby’s heart will begin to beat. Also facial features start developing, such as the eyes and nose. At this stage arms with very tiny fingers and legs will start growing. During the last month of this trimester certain main organs such as kidneys, brain, liver, intestine will grow.

Second Trimester : 

One of the most significant facts during this trimester is that the gender of the baby3-Riya will become apparent. Also the circulatory system will begin pumping blood and bones will harden. The baby can see light coming and the eyes tend to open slightly. You will start to feel the baby kick and move. The hearing also improves. The baby can feel the pregnant mother move too. During the later part of the trimester taste buds are developing with a rapid growth in the brain. Babies usually start sucking their thumbs during this trimester.

Third Trimester : 

downloadAt the beginning of the last trimester of pregnancy, baby’s eyesight develops, which may enable her to sense light filtering in from the outside. She can blink, and her eyelashes have grown. Your baby will now start turning his/her head from side to side. A protective layer of fat is accumulating under the skin, filling out the baby’s arms and legs. Baby’s central nervous system is maturing, as are her lungs. During week 35, kidneys are fully developed and the liver can process some waste products.



A normal, full-term pregnancy can last anywhere from 37 to 42 weeks. Your due date given by the doctor is really an Estimated Date of Delivery (EDD).  It’s dated from the first day of your last period, even though you actually conceive two weeks or so after this date. Usually this dating system works well for women who have fairly regular menstrual cycles. I know pregnant mothers are very much excited to meet the life growing inside for the first time. Your Gynecologist will give you a due date, but exactly what will lead up to that moment is unpredictable, and it’s natural to feel nervous too.


Mrs. Ruwandi Fernando is reading for MPhil / PhD program in Physics and currently working as a Technology Entrepreneur in MAS Holdings. In her role as a Technology Entrepreneur, she explores new trends in the maternal apparel space, sustainable products, new technology trends that can be applied to the apparel sector. She is a mother of a newborn who is interested in Kandyan dancing, playing sports, mentoring teenagers, teaching during her leisure time.



Babies are portable – Flying with a new baby

While stranded in Toronto Pearson airport for nine hours, waiting for a delayed flight to Kansas City, a thought popped into my mind – what better time to write about traveling with a baby other than now – Like many other working mothers, I usually don’t get this opportunity of being stuck in a brightly lit, lively, busy airport by myself. So, like Dr. Seus says, that ‘waiting place’ is not for me, I take full advantage of this free time that fell on my lap unexpectedly, and would like to share with you a bit of my experiences of traveling around the globe with my boys. First of all, there is no ‘absolutely correct’ ways to do this ‘mom’ thing, just find what fits you and things will work out. You already welcomed this chaos to your life when your little one joined you on this earth, enjoy these hard times – because it will be gone so quick, you are going to miss it.

5-13_kids_airport_andriy_bondarev_ax2nxcWe took our first son on his first flight to Denver, Colorado on a five-day work/family trip; a three hour flight, two adults and one infant. I took my second son to Chicago for a Christmas weekend trip just to walk around the windy city – he barely had started walking. The third son was on a flight to Toronto when he was just two months old accompanying me on a full-day interview – yes I breast fed the baby while on breaks during the interview process. Including these, there were many domestic and international trips either as a whole family or few at a time. We flew for either work/family trips for a week or month long trip overseas. You have to believe me when I say I have seen it all and tried it all. My friend just wrote about how my life looks chaotic with three boys but I always seem to come on top of it with a smile on my face and that’s how I would like you to picture yourself as a mother or mother to be – always with a smile, no matter what – because motherhood is a wonderful thing.

Prepare ahead – make tons of phone calls.

For a stress free – at least low stress – air travel, what you cannot avoid is preparing ahead. From the moment you book the flights, you need to work on making this trip as easy as possible for you; always remembering to keep your baby’s health and wellbeing your priority.

Call airline companies to check on available facilities for babies on board. I found out that our car rental company can provide a car seat free of charge at the destination, so we didn’t have to carry our own all the way from here. We put the baby on the bassinet that the airline provided free of charge. Once we requested the bassinet, they also upgraded us to an economy plus seat with more leg room and of course room to keep our bassinet. We carried the baby on a Baby Bjorn – the best kind of baby carrier I have ever used –  across airports going from one gate to the other, got a very nice car seat from the rental company, wiped it clean with disinfectant wipes I carried everywhere with me. For a whole week, the baby traveled around safely buckled in the car seat. United Airlines lets you carry your own baby car seat, breast pump and a diaper bag in addition to the carry-on baggage allowance.   For a full list of baby items that are allowed in United, visit https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/baggage/infant.aspx.


Take minimum amount of stuff you need. Chances are you’ll be in a place where you can get a small pack of diapers for the baby, so why pack diapers for two weeks in your check-in luggage? Same comes to clothes. Layer, mix and match is a great way to stay stylish on the go without having to carry the whole wardrobe with you. Remember babies clothes are very easy to just hand wash and hang to dry overnight. I usually pack two-days-worth of supplies for baby in my carry-on luggage in case my check-in does not show up at the destination.


On flight 

Be mindful of others around you, but you don’t have to give up your happiness for theirs either.

When I travel with little babies, I bring small bags of chocolates or packets of M&Ms for everyone around. No one says no to chocolates and M&Ms. These little bags of M&Ms do make the baby cries seem less loud and less annoying than it actually is. Rarely, you’ll find a sad soul who will complain about ‘that crying baby’, but hay, they’ll get over it, just ignoring those comments is the best medicine for your sanity.

Young baby looking out of the window at the clouds below while flying in an airplaneIf you are still breast feeding the baby, it is a well-known secret that feeding the baby on the takeoff and landing, keeps him calm and ease the pain in his ears. That strategy worked perfect for me and an added bonus was that my son fell asleep right at the take-off while feeding and slept all through the two hour flight.

Waiting in airports

If your baby is small, put the baby on his blanket on his back. Once you find your gate, you can usually find a quieter corner and place the baby on the floor and relax. I used to bring a play mat with soft sensory toys attached to it. Letting him stretch out, play and make some baby noises while waiting will get him to relax before that long flight. Wait on the feeding for take-off as we already mentioned. Waiting time is good for changing his diaper and a good wipe-down. I use wet baby wipes to clean his toes and fingers and give him a massage with the baby lotion. When its waiting with my toddler, I bring small matchstick cars and a collapsible small track. I let them walk around as much as they can and airports now have play areas for toddlers to hang out if you have a longer transit.

One final advice on travel, find ways you can save money and your energy throughout the trip getting there, because you are going to need a whole lot of both at your destination when you get there. Whatever the reason you are taking that baby on board, a fun trip will be a memory to cherish for a life time to come.


Dr Ganga Fernando received her PhD from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and currently teaching at Cottey College – a four-year University of liberal arts and sciences for women –  as an Associate Professor of Chemistry. In her role as a faculty member of the BS in Health Science program, she offers research and internship opportunities in the field of Global Public Health disparities and health care in rural South East Asia. She is a mother of 3 and a world traveler with vast experience in women’s health and maternity.

Pregnancy related anxiety – What recent research can tell us about it?

I am a firm believer of non-visible disabilities and anxiety is one of those that we do not see but exist in many of us.  Everyone is anxious about something at any given point in their lives. But pregnancy is a time that many first time mothers experience an increased level of anxiety. I remember during my first pregnancy, I was still a graduate student, so was my husband. We had research jobs on contract, stable income, a roof over our head and were doing well. Though we were ready for our new baby to arrive, there were many ‘What if’s”. With continuous help from my very supportive husband and my mother, I kept my anxiety at a level that was manageable by religiously following my physician’s advice and educating myself by reading about it.

Today, I would like to share with you some new research that has emerged on effect of stress and anxiety on pregnancy complications.

Researchers all over the world agree that it is critical to identify signs and symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety during the prenatal period. It has shown that there could be a direct correlation between these conditions and pregnancy outcomes as pre-term births, low-birth weights and infant abnormalities. It is estimated that the occurrence of depression among pregnant women are about 16% symptomatic and about 5% diagnosed.

Negative effects


A 2015 review by Schetter and Tanner shows the possibility of a correlation between low-birth weight and different types of stress the mothers undergo during pregnancy, including but not limited to unemployment, racism and discrimination. Furthermore, pre-term birth has been correlated to pregnancy anxiety at levels higher than effects of known risk factors such as smoking and medical risk. Maternal destress have also been related to negative neurodevelopmental outcomes such as long-term learning, motor development and behavioral issues.

A Swedish study of 2900 participants by Fransson, Ortenstrand and Hjelmstedt showed a significant effect of prenatal stress on low birth weight babies. Being of age over 35, a primipara and experience of a previous miscarriage have also been identified as factors that are associated with low-birth weight.

Clinical Screening

Stress at the pregnant woman

A significant need of clinical-screening and intervention has been recommended by the researchers for prenatal and postpartum stress and anxiety based on the review of over 50 research articles in clinical psychology. While this level of screening and research findings vary widely for different countries with the wide array of culture and socio-economic backgrounds of the mothers and expecting women, it is safer to talk to your physician to keep you in check for those conditions no matter where you are.

Community Supportcouple-cropped-600long.jpg

It is important to remember that the continuous support and understanding from the partner, family, friends, neighborhood and larger community is crucial to influence a women’s mental health and responses to a diagnosis of a disorder. An increased level of awareness and acceptance of these mental conditions by the community will significantly lower the risk of pregnancy complications of the mothers in their own community.


Dr Ganga Fernando received her PhD from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and currently teaching at Cottey College – a four-year University of liberal arts and sciences for women –  as an Associate Professor of Chemistry. In her role as a faculty member of the BS in Health Science program, she offers research and internship opportunities in the field of Global Public Health disparities and health care in rural South East Asia. She is a mother of 3 and a world traveler with vast experience in women’s health and maternity.

Pregnancy Massage – It’s about being good to yourself

Massage therapy is the manipulation of soft tissues of the body including, muscles, connective tissues, tendons, ligaments and joints. According to some university studies it has been demonstrated that massage therapy is very effective during pregnancy. Women who received massage therapy reported decreased depression, less leg and back pain. In the massage group, cortisol levels decreased, fetal activity decreased and the rate of prematurity was lower.


In a study of labor pain, women who received massage therapy experienced significantly less pain and on average, their labor period was 3 hours shorter with less need for medication. An underlying mechanism we have been exploring is that these effects are mediated by increased vagal activity. This likely occurs by the stimulation of pressure receptors that are innervated by the vagal afferent fibers, which ultimately projects to the limbic system, including hypothalamic structures involved in autonomic nervous system regulation and cortisol secretion.

Depressed pregnant women were massaged over a 16-week period using the same protocol (20-min massages twice weekly). Similar to the first study, significant decreases were observed in depression and anxiety, as well as cortisol levels. In addition, pregnancy outcomes were improved, including a reduction in excessive fetal movement that has been noted in fetuses of depressed women. The most important finding was the lower incidence of prematurity.

The use of pregnancy massage can also help reduce the weight on the joints. Like other forms of massage therapy, it may also affthinkstockphotos123904454_1.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2ect the flow of blood circulation and lymphatic flow. A regime of massage may also increase the pliability of the skin. This is helpful both during the pregnancy and while the client is in labor. Prenatal massage can be a positive experience. It can help pregnant women emotionally and physically. The massage therapist also needs to communicate clearly with the mother and understand any specific worries or possible problems.

What you get from Massage Therapy ?

  • Tranquil relaxation and reduce stress.together
  • Relief from muscle cramp, spasms, especially in the lower back, neck, hips & legs
  • Enhances the pliability of skin and underlying tissues.
  • Reduce weight absorbing joints.
  • Increase in blood circulation which can reduce swelling.
  • Improve the outcome of labor and eases labor pain.
  • Provides support for the new mother with physical & emotional strains of mothering.



Mrs. Ruwandi Fernando is reading for MPhil / PhD program in Physics and currently working as a Technology Entrepreneur in MAS Holdings. In her role as a Technology Entrepreneur, she explores new trends in the maternal apparel space, sustainable products, new technology trends that can be applied to the apparel sector. She is a mother of a newborn who is interested in Kandyan dancing, playing sports, mentoring teenagers, teaching during her leisure time.


Putting Baby on a schedule? Would you let him cry for a minute before picking up?

My first pregnancy came pretty late because I spend half of my life chasing my dream of educating myself and settling with a steady income. We were ready for that baby and we read baby books, attended new mom classes, read every single leaflet the doctor handed me month after month, kept a pregnancy journal, painted the nursery with safe paint and the list goes on. Then arrived the day that he was ready to show up and I thought I was ready.


Then he arrived!! With mom and my very supportive husband right by my side, I came home with that new bundle of joy, except hubby figured changing diaper is not a job he really like to take over, despite his own promises he made that he would be the only one in the house who changes the baby any time he is home – that lasted about two days – pretty soon he got to “I’ll wash baby’s clothes but please can you change that dirty diaper?” And then came all those ‘firsts’ – the first smile, first time held my tiny finger, first doctor’s appointment. A week goes by and I was following everything as the books told me, take naps when baby sleeps, eat and drink enough water and feed the baby – only to find out that I was constantly tired and sad most of the time.

Here’s the bad news ladies, nothing actually goes according to the book. How is it that while other mothers talk about a baby that sleep for four, five hours at night and mine seems to be wide awake all night long? Was my baby sick? Should I take him to the doctor? Why is he not sleeping? Did I feed him long enough? Is my baby getting dehydrated?  Was the house too cold? Was the house too hot? Was I experiencing post-partum depression? How will I ever go back to work with this baby? Millions of questions…


Then I found an old book from the library about how to put the baby on a schedule. I have read about baby schedules, I knew both pros and cons, but none actually told me how to do it. Some books supported the idea of going on a pre-written plan and some are against the idea of telling baby to do what you want him to do – let the baby lead the way – both sides are right.

From my own experience I can assure you that it is infect a good thing to get yourself and your baby on a schedule soon no matter how you go about doing it. A routine for everything make life so much easier. You know what to wake up to. You know what the first thing you’ll do and so will your baby, he will catch up very quickly. Find your balance – I would like to share with you how I found mine. You do not have to force-feed a two month old if he doesn’t seem to be hungry. Your baby will still lead the way. Always think about the baby first, not your comfort, but ultimately it was you who decide.

Wait a second, who said giving up myself and my self-care to take care of my new born baby is good for my baby? I took all the advice but went with my own gut feelings and followed this very old book. For the first couple days, my own mother complained that I am a mean mother and not picking up my baby the moment I hear the faintest cry. I wasn’t constantly holding him or feeding him. I wasn’t letting him use me for a comfort pillow or pacifier. I set a schedule, I woke up early, followed the clock to the point and fed and washed the baby according to this schedule. When it is time to feed the baby, I got myself ready for the ride, I made sure to follow every advice my midwife has given about how to feed my baby right, find a peaceful but bright place to help him eat without falling asleep half full. My focus was completely on feeding this baby. I did the same with washing and putting him to sleep. I worked around the clock. In less than a week, I was getting thing done around the house because I planned my day accordingly and the baby was happy. Of course I had to ask the rest of the family members to help me here.

Remember Instant gratification does no good to nobody. Today we are raising a generation of kids with instant gratification. They do not understand what it is like to wait three days for a mail to arrive, three days if you are lucky. It is ok to let the baby cry for a minute to see if can soothe himself back to sleep without your help. I promise you, when I first heard this from my pediatrician – remember I was a first time mom, I would do anything to make my baby happy – I was not very happy about that plan either. Trust me, I did let my baby cry for a little bit while I stayed close by. You won’t have to be this “mean mom” too long.   Babies are great at learning what you teach them. After all, your baby will be walking and talking soon, where do you think they learned that from?

What are the benefits? Whether you are a working mother or not, your baby will be cared by many people at times of need. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, day care providers and teachers, remember it takes a village to raise a kid. If you only think of the baby’s comfort and be there constantly to help him in every small sound he makes, think of your ‘village’. Are they going to be able to care for him for couple hours? Remember you are the only one who ‘knows’ what your baby wants. No one else can figure it out and you can’t leave the baby to go take a peaceful shower let alone going back to work full time.

No wonder most new mothers feel like they are over worked, underpaid, comfort pillows. No wonder new moms end up feeling depressed even though we are supposed to be enjoying this little bundle of joy we just created. When my first son was born, I took a deep breath and looked at him. The feeling that he did not exist before this, the feeling that he just came out and now he has a name, a birthday, a family – all we created for him – that was a scary feeling at first. Enjoy this creation. You can be overly depressed while surrounded by many people – a high functioning depression and only you can avoid it.

Going back to work:


My first baby stayed home with my mom for one year before he hit the day care. My second stayed home with a sitter for two years and the third went to day care when he was six weeks old!!! All my three are different from each other. With all three, I went back to work after six weeks maternity leave!! It was great to be back at work – sense of purpose can do wonders to a new mom. Had I not made an executive decision to put him on a schedule, all our lives would have been a complete mess trying to figure out what he needs and trying to read his different types of ‘baby cry clues’. When I went back to work, my mom, my sitter and my day care provider all had a clear idea when and how he will sleep and what to do to get him to calm down. Things did go wrong of course, sometimes things don’t work out exactly according to your plan. But for the most part, we were all happy knowing the schedule and clearly written instructions.


Did I think I was going to put him on a schedule? Not at all.  While pregnant if you asked me if I would let the baby cry for five minutes because he was hungry, I would have told you to don’t bother coming around me again. Look at me now, I had a six week old baby in day care, who survived only with my own breast milk, in freezer milk pouches, who I knew exactly how much milk he would need and when he would eat that. I would pump and freeze milk for the baby and did it on my schedule to my milk did not dry up. I love all three of my boys more than anything in the world, but I can sure tell you, a happy mom means happy kids, not the other way around.

So, ladies, whether you are a new mom, planning to be a mom or already on your third trimester, take care of yourself first, while keeping the baby’s needs a priority. I still advice new moms to read a lot of pregnancy books, subscribe to a monthly parenting magazine, don’t stick with just one, read as much as you can and learn what is out there. Pregnancy is a great time to catch up on all that reading. Learn from experts but ultimately, do what feels right for you.

Get out of the house often – with and without baby – just for a half an hour.

My son was just three weeks old. I was surrounded by people, visitors that came to see bay, my mother and hubby who were mostly home with me. Yet, I felt like I was stuck in the house. Remember, I used to be a world traveler and I used to get out of the house and go wherever I want to go whenever I want to go, I was an independent young woman with a stable income and a driver’s license. Now suddenly I am home, stuck without being able to get out of the house. It was scary to go out, it was very new to me, what if he gets hungry, what if he needs to be changed – I had million questions in my mind. I thought I prepared myself for this, I knew it will be different, but it was extremely harder than I expected. It was the three week mark, I had to get out of the house, I took my son to the shopping mall an hour away when he was just twenty days old. I stayed clear of too crowded times and places, I found the department stores that had the best women’s room with a designated area for new mothers, I invested in disposable mats to lay my baby down when I need to change him. It was a good break for all of us, including my hubby and mom, we all enjoyed spending little time among other adults.  We took him on a fourteen-hour, five-day road trip to the Niagara Falls, we even rode the Maid of the Mist, just before he reached seven month milestone. My third son flew across the country when he was just two months old. I was a traveler already before the baby was born and I didn’t change my whole life for the baby, I wanted him to be a part of me, part of who I am.


Today my boys travel around the world at just ten years old. Schedules and routines made all our lives very manageable. More about traveling with the new born in my next article.


Dr Ganga Fernando received her PhD from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and currently teaching at Cottey College – a four-year University of liberal arts and sciences for women –  as an Associate Professor of Chemistry. In her role as a faculty member of the BS in Health Science program, she offers research and internship opportunities in the field of Global Public Health disparities and health care in rural South East Asia. She is a mother of 3 and a world traveler with vast experience in women’s health and maternity.

Birth Plan

When I have to travel for work and leave my three kids to a baby sitter, I always leave a plan posted on the fridge mounted with fridge magnets. It includes their sports schedules, what they would like to eat that day, whom to call in an emergency, who will drive each kid to and from school. A clearly defined plan makes it easy on both me and my baby sitter. Less emergency calls asking where’s the cough syrup, are the kidsallowed to stay late for one more TV show. Spending twenty minutes of quiet and less stressed time to write the plan saves me many hours of answering phone calls from home or worrying about the kids while at work.


A birth plan is a carefully thought out plan of simple things; sometimes as simple as ‘what music you would love to listen to while you are in the recovery room’; to more complicated things as ‘who will cut the umbilical cord’. Why let someone else decide that while you can have it written, you know what music makes you feel like you want to live again, you never know how the whole ‘giving birth’ thing is going to turn out, especially if this is your first pregnancy. Once you have it written down, it makes the packing much easier as well.


When you are actually ready to pack your bags for hospital, you have one place to refer to. Remember no matter what you planned; be prepared to face different circumstances. Plans may need to be adjusted last minute as needed, an emergency C-section for example. So be ready to go alone with the changes if needed. Your care provider would like to have read what your requests were so he/she can prepare to give as much room as possible for your requests.

Journaling about your thoughts and plans while pregnant is a good way to start your birth plan. A simple note book to put down your ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ would be extremely useful as your own unique source of information for your birth plan, whether you are a first time mom or if this is your third pregnancy.

American Pregnancy Association provides a compilation of sample questions to guide you when writing your birth plan. If your gynecologist can afford the time, it is better to answer some of these questions together so you both have a good understanding behind the reason of a certain request. So they will know how to improvise if the request cannot be fulfilled for some reason. Who do you want to be present?

  • Do you want a doula?
  • Will there be children/siblings present?
  • Are you wishing to delay the cord clamping for baby?
  • Do you want immediate skin to skin contact?
  • Do you wish to breastfeed immediately after birth?
  • Do you want mobility, or do you wish to stay in bed?
  • What activities or positions do you plan to use? (walking, standing, squatting, hands and knees)
  • Do you prefer a certain position to give birth?
  • What will you do for pain relief? (massage, hot and cold packs, positions, labor imagery, relaxation, breathing exercises, tub or Jacuzzi, medication)
  • How do you feel about fetal monitoring?
  • How do you plan to stay hydrated? (sips of drinks, ice chips, IV)
  • Do you want to take pain medications, or not? Do you have a preference for certain pain medications?
  • Would you be willing to have an episiotomy? Or, are there certain measures you want to use to avoid one?
  • What are your preferences for your baby’s care? (when to feed, where to sleep)
  • Do you want a routine IV, a heparin/saline block, or neither?
  • Do you want to wear your own clothing?
  • Do you want to listen to music and have focal points?
  • Do you want to use the tub or shower?
  • For home and birth center births, what are your plans for hospital transport in case of emergency?
  • If you need a cesarean, do you have any special requests?


Make sure to leave room for last minute change of plans. After delivering my first baby, I asked the nurses to keep the baby in the nursery for an hour during that 2am hour and I hadn’t had a minute of close eye, despite my own initial request of not keeping baby in the nursery. This new ‘mom’ role had started kicking in and I needed a minute to rest and I asked for help.


Dr Ganga Fernando received her PhD from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and currently teaching at Cottey College – a four-year University of liberal arts and sciences for women –  as an Associate Professor of Chemistry. In her role as a faculty member of the BS in Health Science program, she offers research and internship opportunities in the field of Global Public Health disparities and health care in rural South East Asia. She is a mother of 3 and a world traveler with vast experience in women’s health and maternity.