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HUMAN BODY An Everyday Miracle movie online

You're looking at a baby's heart. It's beating 120 times a minute. But, amazingly, it's not the only thing keeping this human being alive. That's done by the most sophisticated life-support machine on Earth. To find that machine, we have to leave the heart and travel through an artery the thickness of a drinking straw. Every one of us has an almost identical network of arteries and veins. Identical that is, except for this one. No one watching has a blood vessel like this. It's a spiraling link between this body and its life-support. And at its end, a mass of tubes so tiny even blood cells appear huge. Through a wall comes the sound of the engine room. It's a mother's heart, and we've just made the journey from inside the heart of her unborn baby. This film is the story of the unique relationship between mother and baby which is at the start of every new life. 0ver a hundred million acts of sexual intercourse take place each day in the world. These result in around 910,000 conceptions and, nine months later, 400,000 babies. Many of those babies will be first glimpsed like this, with ultrasound. But we can see them differently. Stack a hundred ultrasound pictures together and a new image emerges: a remarkable three-dimensional picture of a child yet to be born.

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Today, new technology is letting us see the world of the unborn in a completely new way. It also lets us retrace its past from a baby just before birth to a fetus of thirteen weeks. And further back, unraveling the dazzling complexity of the embryo at six weeks and four and three until we're back at the beginning, with the cells that start the whole thing off. An egg, and a hundred times smaller, a single sperm. The process looks so elegant you'd think it was simple. But you'd be wrong. These are my sperm, amazingly about 500 million of them from a single ejaculation. With just this one ejaculation it should be possible to impregnate all the fertile women of Western Europe. And I'm nothing special. In actual fact, we need all these millions of sperm to have any realistic chance of achieving just one pregnancy. Why? Because pregnancy is difficult. It's a struggle to get pregnant, it's a struggle to stay pregnant, it's a struggle to give birth and it's a struggle to be born. By filming every two weeks, we squeezed the nine months it takes to create a new life into less than a minute. Having a baby is a common enough experience and we feel we know a lot about it. But more than half of what's actually going on inside our bodies is a mystery even to doctors. It's our greatest achievement and yet it's cloaked in secrecy. And even when we live through it, experiencing the months of pregnancy first hand, and our bodies still conceal the marvel that's going on within. In this film I want to look at that time afresh, over a single day and over 300 days. We'll follow the complexities and difficulties of the beginning of life. We'll condense a year into just a few minutes and reveal how, moment by moment, month by month, a struggle to be born unfolds. And we'll show how, time after time, the human body has to overcome the most daunting of obstacles to complete the everyday miracle of new life. I think we talked fairly quickly about having children. I think we decided fairly quickly not to have them straight away. Yeah, but it was never an issue as to whether we would or wouldn't, I think. We just both assumed we would. It was something that didn't have to be discussed as a possibility or a definite no-no. It was more a question of when. Phillippa and Jeff Watson live in Bath. They're both in their thirties. Five months ago, they started trying for a baby. I assumed very much that as soon as Phillippa came off the Pill that getting pregnant would be a piece of cake, but I'm not sure that's the case. Well, I definitely thought, because all my previous experience has been about contraception and how important it is, I thought it would be very easy to get pregnant. There would be no problem at all, but, in fact, that's not the case. A strand of sticky, almost see-through cells is pulled away by the rubbing Fallopian tubes. They're nurse cells, up to five million of them, ready to feed and nurture the egg. The egg itself is deep within them. This is ovulation. It will happen just 400 times in a woman's life. It is the beginning of the possibility of new life. As the egg is pulled from the ovary into the Fallopian tube, the race to pregnancy has begun. Inside the folds of the Fallopian tube, the egg and its sticky entourage are squeezed along. But time is already running out. The egg has perhaps just 24 hours to be fertilized. After that it'll die. And to be fertilized it needs to meet a vital ingredient: sperm. I'm sometimes asked what's the best way to make sure a sperm meets an egg in those vital 24 hours. The answer's rather technical: have sex and have it often. As our bodies come nearer and nearer to orgasm, every part gears up in anticipation. Sperm have to travel through the tangle of tubing in the testicle to the end of the erect penis. It's a distance of nearly a metre. The white fluid they're in is mainly nutrients for their long journey ahead. At orgasm, huge muscular contractions propel the fluid on its final ride through the man's body and into the woman's. And now, inside the vagina, sperm face the first of many mortal dangers. The walls of a woman's vagina are coated in acid to protect her from infection by bacteria. But it's lethal to sperm. Within minutes, the walls are littered with the corpses of millions. And within an hour most of the 500 million sperm that set off are dead. Yet the woman's body can help, as well as hinder the sperm's progress. It's possible the contractions of her orgasm help to draw sperm into her uterus. 0r even that the junction between the vagina and the uterus, her cervix, is dipped time and time again into a pool of waiting sperm. It's also likely that in the hours after sex the uterus itself contracts, helping to carry the sperm on their way. Even so, the sperm have been all but annihilated. 0nly a few thousand will complete the journey across her uterus and into her Fallopian tubes. Then, minutes, hours or even days after they started out, the sperm that have struggled so far will find what they set out for. Deep in the folds of the Fallopian tube, here magnified a thousand times - an egg. As they get near, the sperm are lured towards their goal by a chemical signal sent out from the egg. Each sperm carries in its head all the genetic information the man will contribute, and this now needs to meet with the mother's genetic information waiting inside the egg. Suddenly one of the sperm, which has been burrowing into the wall of the egg, breaks right through. Inside the egg, the genetic information is gathered in two tiny balls. Details from Phillippa are in one and from Jeff in the other. In a moment the information will fuse together. And the instant that happens the unique inherited characteristics of a new life will be fixed. All the information from Phillippa and Jeff is now there to determine whether their baby will be a boy or a girl, tall or short, have blue eyes or brown. Even whether it's predisposed to heart disease or certain kinds of cancer. But, as yet, the baby itself does not exist. In fact, the chances of the fertilized egg surviving are far from certain. Some will do nothing. But just over half will do this. It makes a copy of itself and divides, again and again. Seen down the lens of a laser microscope, the dividing egg looks like a strange berry. It's a cluster of eight identical cells. Hour after hour, the fertilized egg continues to change, and all the time it's journeying along her Fallopian tube towards her uterus. Her uterus, too, is transforming. Its lining has swollen and thickened. We're seeing a part of the lining magnified almost ten thousand times. It's the landing ground for the fertilized egg. But the egg establishes itself in the womb in a much unexpected manner that will set the tone for the next nine months. This is Hirudo medicinally, better known to you and me as a leech. It's a parasite. It takes whatever it needs to live by sucking the blood of whatever it can latch on to. In this case, that's me. As it sucks my blood, it takes from it all that it needs to live. It literally lives off me. And the whole of pregnancy is shaped by a similar kind of parasitic relationship. Unlike the leech, the developing embryo doesn't suck the mother's blood. But it does raid her blood for the raw materials it needs to grow. From the word go, both leech and embryo are out for themselves. The cells of the embryo spread out as they divide and invade the mother's uterus. It's almost an aggressive attack. But, surprisingly, the army of foreign cells does not meet any resistance from the mother's own defense systems. If anything else grew inside her at the same tireless rate, it would either be killed or eventually it would kill her. Quite how the embryo pulls off this life-saving trick remains a mystery. It's around now that a woman may for the first time sense there's something going on in her body. I tend to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom anyway. And I woke up and I suddenly had this urge to try out the pregnancy test kit. So I was rattling around in the dark, opening drawers and bashing away, and I'm not quite sure what Jeff thought was going on. Then I disappeared into the bathroom for ten minutes and, I mean, this was all at four o'clock in the morning and I crawled back into bed, sort of said, And we did wander around for a couple of days after that, grinning at each other like Cheshire cats. But the struggle of pregnancy is by no means over. It's really only just starting. The basic layout of the body is from a very early stage quite familiar. At six weeks, the developing spine is bent double. A bud of an arm is beginning to form near the top. This is the head. But the exact details of each embryo are unique. It's being built to a genetic blueprint which is a one-off, never tried before. Work starts at the head and progresses down. By six and a half weeks, that makes the head, on the left, disproportionately large.

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All four limbs have sprouted, though the right arm is hidden behind the umbilical cord. But as the embryo's genetic blueprint is brand-new, it's never actually been tested. Each new step could reveal a fatal mistake. And they're much more common than you might think. It's a harsh reality, but what you see here will not inevitably become a baby. Five out of six embryos will not have survived up to eight weeks in the womb. It's almost impossible to see a developing feature and not imagine it finished. But the truth is this will only become an eye if luck stays on its side.

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Every moment we watch, this embryo is taking another step into uncharted territory. The embryo has reached eight weeks. It looks like it may become a boy. But, in fact, what you're looking at could develop not into a penis, but a clitoris. The embryo's sex is hidden. For now, both male and female look the same. Also hidden is the construction work inside the body. Millions of cells are becoming bone, lungs and brain. At this stage, nine weeks, the stomach is producing its own digestive juices, and the heart has started its vigorous pumping. We now call it not an embryo, but a fetus.

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All the time, the work is fuelled by the supply line, the umbilical cord, linking the fetus to the mother. Now a crucial stage of pregnancy is over. But the good news is that most women feel better by about twelve weeks. Although you're not exactly home and dry, after that things are much more stable for both mother and fetus. Around you would be metres and metres of arteries and veins, filled with someone else's blood. And how would you get any peace, when above you, two cavernous lungs work day and night? And worse still, right next to you would be the biggest distraction of all.
 
 

Pictures

An Everyday Miracle movie online picture 1 - A baby's heart beating 120 times a minute
A baby's heart beating 120 times a minute
  picture 2 - If the baby is to come into the world at all whether its brain is ready or not
If the baby is to come into the world at all whether its brain is ready or not
  picture 3 - Spine has curved with all the extra weight
Spine has curved with all the extra weight
 

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Three meals a day and who knows how many ice cream and gherkin sandwiches have to go somewhere. And to top it all, you'd be growing all the time. The real world inside the womb is dynamic and bustling. And in the last twenty years the tool that's done most to show us that is ultrasound. Developed to help doctors screen for potential problems, it allows parents-to-be to see what their baby is up to. Instead of lying quietly, it's having a go at a kick or even a somersault. It gulps and swallows up to half a cup of amniotic fluid every day.

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From quite early on, it sucks its thumb, a habit which may take years to break. As it gets bigger, we can see what little room it actually has. Ultrasound is so sensitive that it will even, if you watch carefully, capture a blink. There. Phillippa is now nineteen weeks pregnant and going for her scan. OK, let's show your baby before I do anything else. So, you can see this is his head, body, heart beating away there in the middle of the chest. The legs curled. All right, now I can see which way round it is.
 
picture 4 - Complexity of the embryo at six weeks
Complexity of the embryo at six weeks
  picture 5 - The egg has perhaps just 24 hours to be fertilized
The egg has perhaps just 24 hours to be fertilized
  picture 6 - Bodies come nearer and nearer to orgasm, every part gears up in anticipation
Bodies come nearer and nearer to orgasm, every part gears up in anticipation
 
picture 7 - Huge muscular contractions propel the fluid on its final ride through the man's body and into the woman's
Huge muscular contractions propel the fluid on its final ride through the man's body and into the woman's
  picture 8 - The walls of a woman's vagina are coated in acid to protect her from infection by bacteria
The walls of a woman's vagina are coated in acid to protect her from infection by bacteria
  picture 9 - All the information is now there to determine whether the baby will be a boy or a girl
All the information is now there to determine whether the baby will be a boy or a girl
Human Body An Everyday Miracle movie
Human Body An Everyday Miracle movie
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