By Marlo Lee, May 6, 2022

Lead Stories emailed Dr. Kecia Gaither, a double board-certified doctor in obstetrics and gynecology and maternal fetal medicine, for the next three questions. She responded to our query on May 6, 2022.

  1. “I can smile at 12 weeks.”

This is partly true. A 12-week-old embryo is not smiling on purpose, but the movement of those muscles can happen to form a smile. Gaither told us that a fetus’ facial structure is not complete at 12 weeks:

‘SMILING’ as we know it … in a 12-week embryo reflects just ‘flexing’ of the developing musculature — basically just reflexive movements.

  1. “My brain activity can be detected at 5 weeks.”

This is partly true. Gaither said a basic formation of the fetal brain is present by the fifth week of gestation. Gestation is defined as “the carrying of young in the uterus,” by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. Gaither added:

By the end of 5 weeks into the 6th week of gestation these early neural connection allow movement– and as such is evidence of neural electrical activity.

  1. “I have fingerprints at 9 weeks.”

This is false. According to the Mayo Clinic, fingerprints start to form around week 23 of fetal development. Gaither mentioned that at nine weeks gestation, “hand buds” appear on the embryo, but there are no fingerprints at nine weeks because there are no fingers.

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