Life Before Birth
by Marjorie A. England

[1996, St. Louis, MO: Mosby-Wolf, 228 pages, paperback]

[Review first published in Midwifery Today Issue 41, Spring 1997, © 1997, Midwifery Today, Inc. Review by Jill Cohen.]

The first edition of this book, published in 1983, was the first book to show full-color photographs of normal embryonic and fetal development. The second edition continues in the same vein, with updated literature and photography, and uses the Carnegie system of staging to measure development and maturation. Contemporary ultrasound imaging augments the photographs and text.

This full-color volume takes the reader through the normal process of fetal development including pre-embryonic, embryonic and fetal stages. It continues with fetal membranes and placenta, head and neck development, followed by the formation of the thorax, abdomen, limbs, bones and joints, and muscles. All photographs and scans are meticulously identified, tiny feature by tiny feature.

This atlas of embryology is geared for all who might be interested: nurses, midwives, students and doctors as well as families and mothers-to-be. The photographs are astounding, and draw the reader deeper and deeper into the detailed miracle of fetal development.

It must be noted that all of the illustrations are from human specimens, many that were prepared over 40 years ago. Any individuals who object to this will most likely not be interested, but as the preface reads, "It is hoped that this second edition will serve the students of medicine and its allied fields to visualize the beauty and three dimensional nature of human embryonic and fetal development."

Reviewer Jill Cohen practices midwifery in Eugene, Oregon.

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