How Do Babies Breathe In The Womb?

A lot of new mothers wonder: how do babies breathe in the womb? Although the basic idea has become almost common knowledge these days, a more in-depth look it`s necessary to better understand the concept.

How Do Babies Breathe In The Womb

The first cry of a newborn, the first breath – tears of joy and happiness on your face! It`s all great! But aren`t you interested how did he lived inside you by now, how he ate, and most importantly, how he breathe?

During the period of 9 months which he spends in the womb of the mother, the baby doesn`t have the possibility of direct contact with the air and cannot feed as a newborn. But the fetus cannot live without food or oxygen. So, how it`s possible for his to secure all the necessary elements for his development?

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How Do Babies Breathe in the Womb?

The fetus breathes and feeds through the mother; more specifically, through the umbilical cord. It`s essential for the fetus to get the proper nutrients and oxygen needed for him to live. The way these are provided to the organism is less relevant. So, although it might seem strange to a reader who isn`t familiarized with the subject, the fetus can live very well without using their lungs to offer oxygen and without using their digestive system to offer nutrients. Regarding the supply of nutrients other than the usual way, we have the example of coma patients: they don`t have the possibility to feed themselves like us, so they are injected directly into the body with nourishing substances which keep them alive until death or their return from coma.

So, your baby gets the necessary oxygen through the umbilical cord. He starts to practice breathing on your week 9 of pregnancy. Until then, he only tries to show breathing movements. The first time he`s breathing is determined by a sudden change of temperature, but also in the outside environment. This is also the reason for which it`s important to maintain a water temperature equal with the body`s temperature, in case you give birth in a birth pool.

Placenta & Fetal Connections with the Mother

During pregnancy, the baby is in the womb of the mother. He`s connected by the umbilical cord to the placenta, which in turn is attached to the uterine wall. This way, the transfer of all essential elements of life between the mother and baby is ensured.


The placenta is formed between weeks 4 and month 4 of pregnancy. After the placenta is formed, the transfer of oxygen starts to work, as well as the transfer of carbon dioxide, water, mineral salts or nourishing substances between the mother and child. – Additional details!

Umbilical Cord

The umbilical cord contains 2 arteries and a vein. Through it, the child isn`t only receiving oxygen and nutritional substances, but also eliminates “waste,” like carbon dioxide. There are also cases where the placenta “ages,” meaning the useful area diminishes. Consequently, because this is the interface between the mother and the child, if the “aging” is significant, the baby will experience difficulties in his development.


Lungs aren`t used during pregnancy, although the fetus when is near birth, starts practicing breathing-specific movements. However, immediately after birth the lungs fill with air and start to perform their usual functions for the rest of the baby`s life.

During pregnancy, when the mother breathes, the oxygen is extracted from her lungs, it`s transmitted through the tireless pump, which is the heart, some of it reaching the placenta. So, the oxygen is transferred through the blood and umbilical cord to the fetus.

Blood Circulation

The baby`s blood circulation is independent of that of the mother. The only place where they intersect is the placenta. Blood, rich in oxygen and nutrients, gets to the placenta through the arteries of the uterus. – Click here!

Amniotic Liquid

Amniotic fluid fills the amniotic sac, the place where the fetus starts to develop and grow. This fluid offers a constant temperature, movement freedom for the baby and protection from microbes and kicks. As you may already know, the fetus “trains” his digestive and urinary systems by swallowing amniotic liquid and eliminating it under the form of urine. It should be mentioned that the product of urination isn`t harmful.

For those wondering when hearing about water birth if there`s any risk for the baby to drown, probably now things are much clearer: until the moment when the baby takes the first breath of air, he lives with the amniotic liquid. After its elimination from contact with air, he no longer had the possibility of living without the risk of drowning in a liquid environment.

How Does a Baby Breathe in the Amniotic Fluid?

A baby`s lungs don`t function the same way in the uterine environment as they function in the outside environment. Before childbirth, the lungs of babies are filled with amniotic liquid. However, they start to practice breathing movements from the third trimester of pregnancy when they often inhale and exhale amniotic liquid. – Check out this link!

What Happens to the Baby`s Lungs and Heart after Birth?

The placenta of the mother aids the baby to breathe while he`s developing inside the womb. Carbon dioxide and oxygen flow in the placenta. Most of it will go to the baby`s heart and the rest through his body. Right before childbirth, the child`s lungs will be filled with amniotic liquid, but they aren`t inflated. Within around 10 seconds after birth, the baby will take his very first breath into the outside world. The breath will sound like a gasp, because the baby`s central nervous system will react to the fast temperature and environment change.

As soon as the newborn will take his first breath, several changes will start to happen in the baby`s circulatory system and lungs:

  • Amniotic liquid may drain or may be absorbed from his respiratory system.
  • An increased amount of oxygen in the baby`s lungs may cause a decrease of blood flow resistance to his lungs.
  • The baby`s lungs may inflate and start to work alone by moving oxygen into the entire system and removing carbon dioxide when exhaling.

How Fast Do Babies Breathe?

Babies usually breathe somehow faster than bigger children or adults. A newborn normally takes between 40 and 60 breaths for each minute, according to the National Institutes of Health. If the baby breathes over 60 times per minute persistently, he may present a risk of tachypnea. However, if the episodes of tachypnea are brief, this is completely normal in newborns.

Image courtesy of BabyPregnancyCare.com

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