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Pregnancy and Eye Development

The happiest time for a mother is when she sees her newborn open his/her eyes for the first time.  Those beautiful eyes gaze up at you with such excitement as they begin to explore their new world.

As your little one grows, from mommy's tummy to the world, and from infant to toddler, theres a lot of processes involving the eyes that will occur, and the parent should be aware of them so they dont overly worry themselves.

PRENATAL DEVELOPMENT

PRENATAL TIMELINE

Day 1:              Fertilization

Day 2:              Zygote

Week 2:           Brain is first organ to appear

Week 3:           Lung, Heart, Liver, Pancreas Development.   Heart begins to beat.

3 embryonic layers have formed, and will develop into eye structures

Day 27:            Lens and eyelids begin to form.  This is evident at Week 5.

Week 5:           Cranial Nerves are visible.  Initial tooth formation.

Day 36:            Optic Nerve begins to form.

Week 6:            Brain activity begins.  Hands begin to move.

Week 7:            Globes (eyeballs) are clearly visible on both sides of embryo

Week 10:          Pigment in Iris begins to develop

Week 11-14:     Upper and lower eyelids grow together

Month 3:           Retinal blood vessels are completely formed

Week 20:          Hearing and response to sound begins

Week 26:          Fine eyelashes start to grow on eyelids

Month 6:           Corneal layer is formed

Week 26-30:    Well developed eyes progressively connect to the brain

Week 28-30:    Fetus's sleep changes from unorganized to organized sleep.

REM phases are present

Month 7:           Pupils react to light

Prenatal development is a very important start to your child's vision.  Speak with your OB/GYN and get informed about nutrition, prenatal supplements, and things to avoid such as: medications/ chemicals/ drugs/ and alcohol.

NEWBORN'S EYES:

IRIS COLOR CHANGES

We all have seen a newborn babies blue eyes turn a darker shade of color several weeks to months after their introduction to the world.  This is a very normal process.  The pigment inside the iris has not fully expressed itself in the earlier days of life.  It takes several months for their eyes to fully develop.  The iris continues to darken until 6 months of age.

LIGHT & COLOR SENSITIVITY CHANGES

Baby's eyes are not very sensitive to light in the first month. They are almost 1/50th the sensitivity of adults.  Therefore its okay to leave the light on in the nursery initially, it wont bother your newborn.

The baby can only see black and white initially due to development of cones in the eyes.  Red and Green color is recognized as early as 1 week after birth, however, full color vision including the blue spectrum takes more time to develop.

Initially they respond to mothers voice and quickly learn the shapes of her face.  Although they cannot see colors and light intensity to its fullest, they have a great way of distinguising mother from stranger.  Mother should keep her appearance consistent (ie. hairstyle/color) so that it can help the baby recognize and interact easier.

TEAR DUCT/GLAND CHANGES

In some newborns, the lacrimal ducts (tear drainage system) in the eyelids do not open up completely in the first year of life.  The eyes will water frequently and appear as if the baby has been crying.  Do not worry, this occurs in about 30% of newborns.  Take them to the optometrist to rule out any problems.  They will most likely require mother/father's assistance in opening the eyelid canal with gentle daily massage that can be demonstrated by an eye doctor.

Tear Production does not begin until 2 weeks after birth.  The tear producing glands continue to grow until child is 3-4 years of age.

If baby's eyes are producing heavy amounts of mucous, its possible they may have an eye infection and require antibiotics.  This should be looked at as soon as possible.

VISION CHANGES

The baby's focusing ability is not perfect at birth and sometimes causes the eyes to appear as if they are not working together or looking in the wrong direction (cross-eyed).  Its normal for the eye to drift in or out for the first couple months.  However, if you notice the childs eyes drifting large amounts or very frequently, please contact your pediatrician and/or optometrist, especially if its been a few months since birth.

Baby's vision is about 20/400 at birth.  Baby's vision will become sharper as time proceeds. Their vision is almost approaching 20/25 by the time they're 6 months. Vision will be near 20/20 after the first year.

PEDIATRIC EYE EXAMINATIONS

When the baby is born, the nurse quickly douses the childs eyes with an antibiotic to prevent any eye infections.  The newborn is also checked to rule out any major eye conditions such as cataracts or retinal tumors.  The baby is not given a full eye exam at this time.  Their first eye exam can occur with an optometrist as early as 6 months of age.  BC optometrists perform FREE examinations annually on all infants, toddlers, and children until they turn 19 years of age. It is highly recommended to bring the baby in for an eye exam sometime after 6months in their first year of life, around age 3, and age 5.

Resources used:  

(1) Lee Ann Remington, Clinical Anatomy of the Visual System  

(2) http://pediatrics.about.com/od/pediatricophthalmology/a/0407_blck_trdct.htm

(3) A great Link for DEVELOPMENTAL TIMELINE:  http://php.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php?title=Timeline_human_development

(4) http://www.ehd.org/science_main.php?level=b&submit1.x=67&submit1.y=11&s1=on&s5=on&s17=on&s14=on&s2=on&s6=on&s16=on&s0=on&s12=on&s7=on&s11=on&s13=on&s10=on&s18=on&s19=on&s3=on&ops=&r1=on&r3=on&r5=on&r7=on&r2=on&r4=on&r6=on&r0=on&re=on&L1=1&L2=0

(5) http://www.allaboutvision.com/parents/infants.htm