Miracle of life

Wednesday last week, while waiting at O’Hare Airport in Chicago for our flight to Lake Charles, Louisiana, to attend the graduation of our granddaughter, Sydney, my wife, Farida, and I saw a cute, cheerful, very active toddler, who reminded us fondly of our five children and ten grandchildren at that age. As a pediatrician, Farida guessed the baby girl’s age correctly, as we overheard the father telling a lady “16 months old.” Personally, I find them most enjoyable and adorable between ages one to three, and especially challenging at age two: Terrible Two, when they start to develop their personality and love to say “no!” asserting their independence.

The stage I truly marvel at, even today, is the initiation of life when the sperm meets the ovum which starts fertilization from one cell, geometrically and progressively dividing, eventually growing into an embryo, then fetus. How a new human being comes to life and how DNA maps and guides the entire process are amazing and mind-boggling, to say the least. To me, it is nothing short of a miracle. The progress of the fetal development compounds the excitement and interest. And the curiosity and the queries abound.

What is the timeline of fetal development?

The cells in the embryo begin to organize themselves into the fetus’s brain, face, eyes, ears, and nose between the 4th and 5th week of pregnancy. The heart starts to beat at about 22 days after conception, but on the ultrasound, the beating heart of the fetus is seen in about 5 weeks from the last menstrual period of the mother. At 18 weeks, the baby begins to hear, more sensitive at week 24 when the ears are developing better. Between weeks 25th and 26th, it responds to voices and noise in the womb. The baby at this stage is able to hear music, the mother’s breathing, motion, stomach growls, and heart beat. The outside sounds are muted by half in the uterus, muffled by the amniotic fluid (like shock absorber) where the baby floats. Constant exposure to loud noises could cause hearing defect in the fetus. The mother’s voice is the most significant, familiar and soothing sound the baby hears, which the baby in the womb can recognize by the third trimester (by 28th weeks).  Its heart beat increases when the mother is speaking, showing their awareness and alertness.  

How large is the fetus at 25 weeks?

At 25 weeks (5 months and one week) of gestation, the fetus is about 13.1 inches (33.6 cm) tall and 1.7 pounds (785 grams) in weight. They already look like a human being, a very tiny version of a full term baby. Normal full term delivery is 40 weeks (10 months). Those born at 25 weeks are tiny and fragile, but with modern neonatology care, most make it, but some do not survive.

What are the items not to eat/drink when pregnant?

Some of the foods/drinks to minimize or, better yet, to avoid during pregnancy, a vital and truly delicate stage in the life of a woman and her baby, include: high-mercury contaminated fish (swordfish, tune, especially albacore tuna, king mackerel, shark. The US-FDA recommends 8-12 ounces of fish low in mercury, like salmon, shrimp, cod, catfish, tilapia, canned-light non-albacore tuna. These fatty-fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, healthy, and important to the growing fetus. Soft drinks are toxic. To avoid bacterial and parasitic infections for herself and the baby, expectant mothers should totally avoid undercooked or raw fish, raw meat, raw eggs, raw sprouts, unwashed produce, unpasteurized milk and dairy products, processed meats (hot dogs, ham, bacon, sausages), and organ meats. Some of the infections from any foods could lead to premature or still birth. Caffeine intakes should be less than 200 mg, about 2 cups a day. Of course, smoking (cigarettes or e-Cigs) and alcohol intake are absolutely prohibited, since they increase the risk for premature/still birth, low-birth weight, mental deficiency, increased risks for respiratory and many other diseases.

Why the title of my book?

            I have been asked countless times why I chose to title my book Let’s Stop “Killing” Our Children, when in fact it is a home health reference manual for healthy lifestyle and disease prevention at the cellular (DNA) level of children and adults as well. It is a pre-emptive-proactive strategy for parents to save their children, no matter the age, from unhealthy habits and behaviors and illnesses. It has nothing to do with abortion or murdering children. My rationale: If we do not teach our children by example (like parents who smoke, drink alcoholic beverage beyond one or two drinks a day, who do not watch their diet and weight, who do not exercise, and who allow their children to consume soft drinks of any kind, which are literally toxic), are obviously exposing their children to bad habits and unhealthy behavior…thus contributing to, and increasing, their risk to develop diseases, shortened life span and premature death. The word “killing” (as in killing or pampering or spoiling children in the name of love) is in quotation marks as a metaphor. Children are best nurtured with wisdom-guided love and care. Parents and guardians not positively contributing to their children’s health by default are certainly shortening their potential longevity. (Reference available at philipSchua.com, amazon.com, and at central.com.ph)

How should society manage population growth?

The total world population is more than 7.7 billion and the global population clock is continuously ticking (about 200,000 growth a day) as new births and deaths are officially counted. If society wants to manage global (or even domestic) population growth for the survival of the human species, it is certainly wiser and more compassionate to achieve the goal by avoiding pregnancy and providing excellent environment and healthcare for all people, especially for children and our senior population. Not by ethnic cleansing, murder, or any form of termination of life. The most important tenet in the Hippocratic Oath we took as physicians is Primum non nocere, a Latin phrase meaning, “First, to do no harm,” a sacred, solemn, and poignant promise healers thousands of years ago and today have made. If we are unable to do anything to help a fellowman or any living creature, the least we can do, as healthcare providers, or even as ordinary people anywhere in the world with integrity and compassion, is to respect life and do no harm.

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian foundation in the United States. Websites: philipSchua.com and FUN8888.com   Email: [email protected]