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Unborn young of any vertebrate, particularly mammals, after it has acquired its basic form. In humans, this stage begins about eight weeks after conception (seeembryo). The fetal stage, marked by increased growth and full development of the organ systems, climaxes in birth (seepregnancy, parturition). By the end of the third month, the arms and legs of the human fetus begin to move and reflexive movements (such as sucking) begin. Four months after conception, the fetus is about 5.3 in. (135 mm) long and weighs about 6 oz (170 g). During the fifth month, downy hairs (lanugo) cover the body and the skin becomes less transparent. At seven months, a protective greasy substance (vernix caseosa) covers the reddish, wrinkled skin. Fat is deposited under the skin during the eighth month, when the fetus typically weighs about 5 lbs (2.2 kg). A full-term fetus is about 266 days old.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on fetus, visit Britannica.com.