Throughout this chapter, we will express the embryonic development from fertilization, commonly called conception, to the implantation. It is well documented that preimplantation is considered a critical period for embryo development in ruminants, in which high pregnancy loss occurs; in fact, several authors point out that 50–75% of blastocysts fail to implant. The high rate of implantation failure is one reason why pregnancy typically requires on average two ovulation cycles to achieve. Events involved in the embryo growth and survival are directly or indirectly related to cytokines, steroids, metabolites, and growth factors. When one of these compounds fails, it normally leads to the death of the embryo or fetus. As known, the period required for full development of a fetus in utero is referred to as gestation, and it is commonly subdivided into two distinct periods. The first 2 weeks of prenatal development are referred to as the pre-embryonic stage. By the end of the embryonic period, all of the organ systems are structured in rudimentary form, and the embryo shifts to the fetus from the ninth week of gestation until birth.
Part of the book: Embryology