Stages of Human Growth and Development: The Prenatal Phase

The Prenatal phase in human growth is also called antenatal stage which is the phase before the birth of a child.

Social work is a human service profession and strives to resolve human problems which are psychosocial in nature. While  working with individual clients it is very important to understand the significance of various life stages and what impact does the physical as well as external environment can have on the psychosocial  development of the individual.

The human growth and development is studied under two broad categories, namely, Prenatal and Postnatal. The prenatal starts from conception till the birth of the child and the post natal starts from the birth and continues till old age. These stages has been further divided into sub-stages for targeted study.

Each phase has its own characteristics which includes the development tasks and the challenges associated with it. It is very important for social workers to understand this so that they can address the problems associated with these when working with individual clients.

Characteristics of Prenatal Period

  • Heredity (foundation for later development) is fixed during this stage. The characteristics the individual will possess at the time of the birth is determined at this stage. For example: DNA, colour of skin, hair etc.
  • Sex of an individual is decided at this time and is irreversible.
  • Proportion of growth and development is highest at this stage. It starts from a microscopic cell to a human being in 9 months. It is estimated that an infant at birth is approx. 20 inches and 2-3 kg and the weight increases 11 million times.
  • If any accident  happens to hinder the fixed development pattern, it may result in handicap for rest of their life.
  • There can be psychological and physical hazards during this period. It is the understanding of the hazards and its preventive measures which is the focus of study for social workers.

Stages of Prenatal Phase

Now let us understand each of the stages of prenatal phase in detail-


It is the first stage and starts from conception and lasts till 2 weeks. In this phase Fertilization takes place and the uterine wall is formed and the zygote gets implanted to the placenta.


This phase starts from 3rd week till 2months. In the embryonic stage development of limbs and other body features starts to develop.


It starts from 3rd month till birth of the infant. Growth in size takes place and body parts starts becoming functional. At seven months the feotus is fully functional.

Hazards of Prenatal period

Now let us understand some of the hazards or challenges which might occur during the prenatal phase.

Physical hazards

Challenges in development may occur if mother contracts any disease like measles etc., malnutrition or intake of prohibited drugs during this time.

At the Zygote stage, starvation leads to lack of uterine wall formation or implantation in the wrong way.

At the Embryo stage miscarriages is likely after 10th week of conception. Brain development may get affected due to malnutrition.

At the Foetus stage premature birth or complications of delivery can affect infant development.

Psychological hazards:

Maternal stress may also indirectly lead to anxiety and hyperactivity in children. This may affect adjustments in later life.


After reading this article you must have got a clear understanding about the prenatal phase of human growth and development and what are the challenges associated with it which needs attention.

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