The Truth About Babies’ Breathing in the Womb: What Every Parent Should Know

If you are a mother-to-be, it’s natural to worry about your child. Babies get oxygen and other vital nutrition through the mothers, which helps in gradual development during the  9-months of pregnancy. 

You are going to get a thorough answer to your question in this article so keep on reading.

2. How do Babies Breathe in the Womb?

Do Babies Breathe in the womb
Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay/copyright2013

The baby has been connected to the mother’s body through a cord which is called an umbilical cord.

It is the only vital connection between the baby and the mother which plays a significant role in the entire process of the baby’s development during the pregnancy period.

Inside the womb, babies don’t breathe on their own like us, because in the uterus, they are not capable of doing it.

Their lungs are usually filled with amniotic fluid inside the womb, which is necessary for the development of vital organs of the baby.

The mother helps the baby in taking oxygen through the umbilical cord.

When the mother breathes, the oxygenated blood also supplies to the baby, taking the carbon dioxide away through the same umbilical cord.

Along with the baby, the umbilical cord develops and fulfills its significant role of give and take of nutritions and other necessary facilities for the developing baby.

3. The Umbilical Cord

Do Babies Breathe in the womb
Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay/copyright2013

The umbilical cord is the most significant part of the pregnancy, it connects the baby’s body with the mother’s body through a special connection cord, named umbilical cord.

The umbilical cord is connected through placenta, an organ which develops along with umbilical cord during pregnancy.

The placenta is connected from one side to the mother’s uterus and with umbilical cord from another side.

The umbilical cord is connected from one side to the baby’s stomach and from the other side to the placenta.

Through the umbilical cord and placenta, all the essential nutrients and oxygen rich blood supplies to the baby and through the same cord the waste of the baby and the carbon dioxide takes away from the baby’s body.

Therefore a mother’s diet is very important; the diet should include all the micro, macro and essential nutrients which will ensure the proper development of the baby.

3.1. The Risk of Umbilical Cord

In some rare cases, the umbilical cord is found to be rounded around the neck of the baby, though it can be fine until the baby gets nutrition without any barrier.

But if the cord is tightly rounded to the neck, then it can cause severe harm like oxygen deprivation and low nutrition the baby gets through the cord, which can lead to obstacles in development and birth injuries during the birth process. 

4. Baby’s Lung Development in the Womb 

Do Babies Breathe in the womb
Image by Weslley Carvalho de Souza Weslleycs97 from Pixabay/copyright2020

The whole pregnancy period is important but the first and last trimester are most important to be careful about as by the 10 and 11 weeks of the pregnancy, the baby starts to swallow small amounts of amniotic fluid which helps in lung development.

Approximately by the 30-32 weeks of the pregnancy the lungs are considered to be fully developed but they are filled with the fluid called amniotic fluid.

By the third trimester the baby starts its breathing practice which continues till 4 weeks of the pregnancy before the birth of the baby.

This breathing practice involves compression and expansion of the lungs which helps in ‘breathing movements’ like practice of the lungs.

Do Babies Breathe in the womb
Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay/copyright2018

The human fetus’s lungs are extremely delicate, the rib cage starts to develop to protect this type of delicate organ but it is still very fragile just after the after, therefore newborns are highly sensitive.

And after the birth, the lungs development are still in an ongoing process. 

Alveoli, the tiny air sacs which are to be found in bronchioles of the lungs, are present in a very small amount of newborn baby’s lungs in comparison to a toddler’s lungs.

It is most important in respiratory system. Most babies usually have around 24 million alveoli whereas an 8 year old has 280 million of alveoli.

It suggests that the amount of alveoli increase according to physical development so that developing human can get enough oxygen molecules needed for their survival.

5. Do Babies Breathe in the Womb?

In the womb, babies get oxygen supply by the umbilical cord through the mother’s blood.

During the pregnancy, the baby’s lungs are filled with amniotic fluid which is inhaled or swallowed by the baby during the developmental process.

Do Babies Breathe in the womb
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay/copyright2019

Babies start practicing their fetal breathing movements usually before the 4 weeks of the birth. It is only after the birth, the baby takes the actual first breath through their lungs.

suggested reading: Can You Sleep On Your Stomach While Pregnant – 10 Facts You Must Know

6. Breathing During and After the Birth

The concept of breathing is different for babies inside and outside the womb.

As by now it has become a well established fact that the babies can’t do ‘normal breathing’ in the Womb, they take oxygen through the blood vessels of the umbilical cord.

Usually in healthy pregnancy the last month of the pregnancy is an essential month of fetal lung development of developing babies as babies lungs begin their breath practice during this period.

Do Babies Breathe in the womb
Image by jas from Pixabay/copyright2016

Babies can take their first breath after the birth only.

During the delivery in contractions squeeze, some babies have their first bowel movement, and there’s a slight chance of some babies swallowing tiny bits of their first bowel movement, which is officially known as meconium.

It is the caretaker’s responsibility to take care of it and remove the waste products as soon as possible to avoid complications. 

7. Conclusion

Technically, babies can’t breathe inside the womb as their lungs are filled with amniotic fluid which helps in organ development, but their oxygen supply has been taken care of by the umbilical cord and placenta which provides nutrition, oxygen and blood to the babies through the mother’s body.

During the last 4 weeks of pregnancy babies start their breath practice after lungs develop and It is just after the birth that the baby takes their first breath. 


Last Updated on December 26, 2023 by