By Dr.Gordon Lim
Some expectant mothers may want to find out how does the baby breathe inside the mother’s womb. The baby does not actually breathe in the womb as it is the mother who is providing oxygen to them as they breathe. The oxygen is provided to the foetus from the mother through the umbilical cord.
The baby’s first breath only occurs during birth delivery when it let out its first cry when taken out from the mother’s womb. When your baby cries for the first time, this action will remove the remaining amniotic fluid in his or her lungs thereby inflating the lungs for the first time with oxygen and thereby this is when the real breathing for the baby begins.
During pregnancy, the lungs of your unborn baby are not yet developed, hence they are un-inflated and filled with amniotic fluid. This amniotic fluid is where your unborn baby gets oxygen and other nutrients for their development. The mother will be the one breathin, therefore, as long as you are fine, your unborn baby will also be just as fine.
However, around 9 weeks of pregnancy, the foetus may start to practice breathing like movements in the womb though oxygen is still passed to them through the umbilical cord. This breathing practice ensures that your baby knows how to breathe the moment you deliver him or her in this world. Medically, your unborn baby breathes the surfactant coating present in the amniotic fluid on the inside of her lungs to prevent the lungs from collapsing.
The purpose of breathing is for the lungs to get oxygen from the air by inhaling and inject this oxygen to the bloodstream. The lungs also remove the carbon dioxide from the bloodstream by exhaling. The unborn baby on the other hand cannot perform this process through the lungs as they are not fully developed. Therefore, the mother does the breathing for her unborn baby instead.
Source : Gordon Lim. How Does the Baby Breathe Inside You? [Online]. 2015 [cited 2016 June, 10]. Available from: http://www.gynegordon.com.sg/baby-breathe-inside/.