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About lanugo or lanugo hair during pregnancy

What is lanugo or lanugo hair on a baby?

Lanugo comes from the latin word ‘lana’, which means ‘wool’ and lanugo hair is occasionally noticed on the bodies of human new born babies during child birth. It is different from body hair of the human body and has a distinct fuzz-like-appearance. A few parents even affectionately term ‘lanugo hair’ as ‘monkey hair’ on their babies.

Unlike the more visible hair, also known as terminal hair found in humans, lanugo in pregnancy or lanugo hair is extremely thin, soft, identical to the person’s natural hair colour and furry kind of hair.
In the beginning, the foetal hair follicles generate this kind of initial hair and lanugo hair starts growing around the fourteenth and sixteenth weeks of a woman’s pregnancy; it generally becomes visible when the gestation is around sixteen weeks old and becomes copious by the twentieth week; as a matter of fact, by twenty-first or twenty-third week, this furry kind of hair envelops practically the entire new born’s body, only just leaving the palms, soles of the feet, and lips.

As a rule, lanugo hair gets naturally chucked before birth, when the gestation is around seven or eight months old but is sometimes visible at birth; it vanishes on its own within a few weeks and gets substituted by vellus hair, which essentially protects the same surfaces of the human body as lanugo hair but is thinner and therefore, difficult to see. The normal visible hair on an adult human body is called terminal hair and relies on hormones for its growth.

Lanugo hair also occurs in other animals, like seals, elephants as they have been observed to be born with a protective covering of lanugo; what is more, foetal whales also have been spotted with lanugo hair; besides, this is the only time when whales have paraded external hair.

And finally, lanugo hair also surfaces in people suffering from malnutrition or individuals with eating disorders like anorexia; when a doctor detects lanugo hair with other physical symptoms in a patient, then he can correctly diagnose that his patient is suffering from anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.

Why is there lanugo or lanugo hair on a baby?

During standard human embryonic development, the lanugo grows on foetuses as a regular part of gestation. Lanugo hair’s main role in the slowly developing infant is to position itself as an anchor and hold tight to the vernix caseosa on the infantile skin; lanugo hair and vernix caseosa together safeguard the baby’s sensitive skin from harm by the mother’s amniotic fluids as they act as a shield; also, the vernix caseosa makes it easy for the primordial baby to adjust to a life outside the womb.

Above and beyond these functions, both lanugo hair and vernix caseosa co-ordinate  lubrication in the woman’s body to make childbirth easy, both for the mother and child in addition to thermoregulation, stoppage of water loss, and innate immunity during delivery.

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