Icon module 9

Learning aims

In this module you will get to know:

  • The duration of the pregnancy and its various developmental stages.
  • Various techniques of prenatal diagnostics.
  • The differences among premature, full-term and post-term births.
  • The intrauterine development of the child.
  • Positions of the child during birth.
  • Swiss legal aspects of pregnancy termination (abortion).
  • Various causes of embryo-/ fetopathies and possibilities for therapy.
  • Sensitivity of the embryo or fetus to teratogenic substances.

What you should already know

  • The embryonic period

Delving deeper

  • Why is the embryo more sensitive than the fetus regarding infections and teratogenic substances?
  • Into how many stages can pregnancy be subdivided?
  • Which diagnostic possibilities are available today in order to judge the healthy development of the fetus?
  • How are abortions regulated legally in Switzerland?
  • When does one speak about premature deliveries, full-term or post-term births?


The first 8 weeks following fertilization are known as the embryonic period. In this time organogenesis occurs. For this reason the embryo is extremely vulnerable since new structures are arising very rapidly.
The fetal period begins after the 8th week of pregnancy and ends with birth. The fetal period is characterized by the growth and completion of the organs. Formative changes are less obvious in this developmental period so that no subdivisions into stages are made during the fetal period as are characteristic of the embryonic period (Carnegie stages).

Pregnancies of every woman should be followed by a gynecologist. Various techniques can be employed in order to determine the development of the child so that possible malformations or developmental deficiencies can be ascertained.

An interruption of a pregnancy can occur spontaneously or be induced (abortion). The latter are most often restricted to the embryonic or early fetal period. Legal and ethical/moral aspects must be taken into consideration, especially the right to life and protection of life that is coming into being in the woman as well as questions concerning the fundamental rights of the woman. With the time-limit regulation a law has been put into place that respects the rights and responsibility of the woman as a mature individual. She is able to make this weighty decision of interrupting the pregnancy in accordance with her own conscience. It is a solution on the side of tolerance.