Human Growth and Development

Prenatal Developmentfetal Stage

How does blood circulate in the fetus?

Fetal circulation differs from circulation after birth because the lungs of the fetus are nonfunctional. Therefore, blood circulation essentially bypasses the lungs in the fetus. The umbilical vein carries oxygenated blood from the placenta to the fetus. About half of the blood from the umbilical vein enters the liver, while the rest of the blood bypasses the liver and enters the ductus venosus. The ductus venosus joins the inferior vena cava. Blood enters the right atrium of the heart and then flows through the foramen ovale to the left atrium. Blood then passes into the left ventricle (lower portion of the heart) and then to the aorta. From the aorta, blood is sent to the head and upper extremities. It returns to the right atrium of the heart through the superior vena cava. Some blood stays in the pulmonary trunk to reach the developing lung tissues.


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