The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Based on the National Geographic Channel's documentary of the same name,
In the Womb covers a fetus's week-to-week (and, at times, minute-by-minute) development. The baby's and mother's physical changes are illustrated with 3-D ultrasound images, photos taken using a microscope, and stills of fetal models so detailed that you can see the downy hair on their skin.
While the pictures are often mesmerizing, the science-heavy text will leave many readers scratching their heads. Author Peter Tallack, who holds a degree in genetics, doesn't exactly write with the layperson in mind. It's worth trying to wade through, though,
if only to gain greater appreciation for the mind-boggling work your body's doing, as well as to behold the mysteries of pregnancy that still stymie researchers. As Tallack puts it, "Exactly what protects the placenta from rejection by the mother's immune system is one of the greatest enigmas of modern biology." The book also has a practical purpose: The next time your partner doesn't want to cook dinner, explain how the pregnant uterus increases up to 1,000 times its original size. We bet you'll get a break.
MOST VALUABLE TIP: Experts once thought premature babies' retinas could be damaged by the high concentrations of oxygen administered in intensive care; they now think the damage may result from overexposure to light. (National Geographic Books, 2006, $25)