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Quickening, the point at which a pregnant woman can first feel the movements of the growing embryo or fetus, has long been considered a pivotal moment in pregnancy. Over time, this experience has been used in a variety of contexts, ranging from representing the point of ensoulment to determining whether an abortion was legal to indicating the gender of the unborn baby; philosophy, theology, and law all address the idea of quickening in detail. Beginning with Aristotle, quickening divided the developmental stages of embryo and fetus.
The extraembryonic membranes that surround and originate from the embryos of vertebrates such as birds, reptiles, and mammals are crucial to their development. They are integral to increasing the surface area of the uterus, forming the chorion (which in turn produces the placenta) and the amnion, respectively. The amnion will ultimately surround the embryo in a fluid-filled amniotic cavity. This amniotic fluid, which cushions and protects the fetus and helps prevent the onset of labor, is sampled in amniocentesis to screen for genetic diseases.