What Will My Baby Look Like?
What will my baby look like? This is one of the exciting questions that soon-to-be dads and moms ask. I asked this question myself when I was pregnant and even dreamed about it. Will my baby look like mom or dad? Will they be beautiful or handsome? Is it really possible to know what babies look like even before they are born?
We can all make educated guesses about what the baby will look like before they are born, but there are a lot of factors that go into determining what physical features a baby will have.
How Will My Child Look?
There are a lot of generators out there that will take photos of you and your partner to try to give an approximation of what your child would look like. Since genetic inheritance is so complex and includes so many different aspects, these generators are not very accurate when it comes to predicting how your baby will look. Instead, you can use a little bit of genetic inheritance theory to figure out what the chances are that your child will have certain physical characteristics.
If You Have a Child, from Whom Did They Get Their Looks?
Baby's Looks and Genetics
Did you know that a pair of parents has the potential of reproducing 64 trillion different children? That's what experts say based on the estimation that there are 60,000 to 100,000 genes in a human being's 46 chromosomes. And that is what happens when a baby gets 23 chromosomes from mom and another 23 from dad. So statistically speaking, it is quite impossible to predict accurately what your baby will look like.
Furthermore, Kate Garber, Ph.D., director of education in the Department of Human Genetics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, says that "Most traits are actually determined by many genes working together, rather than a single gene."
What that means is that the interplay of genes can create all sorts of unexpected traits. As an example, eye color, which is determined by the amount of melanin or brown pigment in the iris, can result in a wide variety of hues. Therefore, it is possible for two blue-eyed parents to have brown-eyed offspring and vice versa.
There is also something called a dominant feature. This means that only one parent needs to have the feature to potentially pass on the gene through generations. Examples of dominant features are dimples, freckles, cleft chin, hairy earlobes, and widow's peak.
To get an idea of what facial features your child may inherit, look at photos of family members and relatives over generations. If most family members have dimples or a prominent chin, then there is a fairly strong indication that these traits will likely be passed on to the child.
Another scenario would be, if the dad carries only a dominant gene for brown hair and mom carries only a recessive gene for blond, all children should have brown hair. But when the children marry a blond spouse, some grandchildren could have blond hair.
Dominant and Recessive Genes
In genetics, the terms dominant and recessive are used to describe different alleles (gene variations). A dominant allele is one that shows its effects even if the individual has only one copy of the allele (everyone gets one copy of an allele from both parents).
A recessive allele is one that requires two identical copies of the allele. For example, blue eyes are a recessive trait, so for someone to have blue eyes, they need to have identical alleles for blue eyes from their parents. Brown eyes are dominant, so someone who inherits one allele for blue and one for brown would still have brown eyes due to brown being dominant. However, for many features, there are actually multiple genes that influence that particular trait. Even eye color is influenced by more than one allele.
What's the Difference Between a Gene and an Allele?
A gene is a term used to describe the basic unit of heredity while an allele is a variant of a gene. A gene can have many different variations, or alleles, which influence the whole genotype (the genetic makeup of a cell) and the phenotype (the physical expression of a trait).
Much of what we know about genetic inheritance and how it influences visual traits comes from the work of a 19th-century Moravian monk named Gregor Mendel. For many years, Mendel bred pea plants at his monastery, documenting the interactions between different breeds and how the offspring developed based on their heredity. His studies became the backbone of modern genetic inheritance.
You can observe how some of this occurs by using a Punnett square. A Punnett square is a simple representation of the probabilities of offspring having a certain phenotype. While genetics is rarely ever as simple as a Punnett square, it is a useful tool for looking at the interplay of genetic inheritance.
An Example of a Punnett Square
As you can see in the above example, one parent had a dominant copy of an allele, and the other parent had two recessive alleles. While this Punnett square is a simplification of human genetics, it can be useful for determining the probability of a child having a particular trait. Blonde hair and blue eyes are both recessive traits so, in order for a child to have either, both alleles would have to be present in the family's genetic history and the child would have to inherit both recessive alleles.
Try It Out!
If you and your significant other are expecting a child, try to take a look at the history of both of your families. You can make some simple Punnett squares to figure out the probability that your child will have a certain eye color or hair color/texture.
3D and 4D Ultrasound
For couples expecting a baby within a couple of months, it is possible to know the gender of the baby as early as 16 weeks using 2D ultrasound. Now, with the advances in technology, it is also possible to see a clearer picture of how the baby looks like while still in the mother's womb using 3D and 4D ultrasound.
2D ultrasound produces the classic black and white images many are familiar with. 3D ultrasound produces a three-dimensional image of the fetus, and it is typically colored with a brownish hue, and 4D is constructed from multiple 3D ultrasounds. So if the baby is sucking their thumb, crying, yawning, etc. you will see their movements and gestures using 4D ultrasound.
This new technology is amazing. It is possible to capture baby's first images in photos and videos and preserve the memories for the whole family to enjoy. However, the safety of this ultrasound baby scan is still in question, though generally the technique is considered safe. Doctors recommend that parents try to avoid doing too many "souvenir" ultrasounds as there are still some questions as to how safe the procedure is.
Another thing to keep in mind is that a newborn baby looks different from how babies are portrayed in the media. The way a newborn looks depends on a variety of factors, such as how far along your baby is at birth, and if they were delivered vaginally or via cesarian section among other factors. Your baby has spent a long time in the cramped confines of the uterus so many of their features will appear smushed.
Additionally, some features such as eye color and hair color can change in the few days after birth. Just because a baby is born with a particular hair color, that does not mean that later on, their hair will be the same color. Same goes for eye color: many babies will be born with pale blue eyes, with the color changing to brown in a few days.
As your child develops and grows, their features will begin to change, making it hard to determine how your child will look just based on how they look at birth.
What Will My Baby Look like When They Are Older?
Many parents wonder how their child will develop after birth as many features and visual characteristics are not apparent when they are still a newborn. While some features are apparent in an infant, many of their facial features do not become distinct until later on in their development. Their face may appear squished and small after birth, so it is difficult to tell what features will become more prominent as they grow.
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