In the world we live in today there are many things which may affect pregnancy and the development of the growing fetus within the mother’s womb. Teratogens are drugs, chemicals, or infections that may cause abnormal fetal growth (Lingen, 2006). Some believe that teratogens can affect the fetus as early as 10 to 14 days because the umbilical link is established within that time frame (Teratgons Overview). Even before a woman knows she is pregnant, she may unknowingly expose her growing child to harmful teratogens.
Approximately 3% of all newborns have a congenital anomaly which requires medical attention (Nigam, 2009). 40% of hospitalized children are due to malformations of which 10% are due to teratogen agents (Nigam, 2009). There are a great many types of teratogen agents. These agents can be broken down into different classifications or types of exposure. These would include drugs, maternal conditions, intrauterine infections (or just infections), heavy metals, radiation, procedures during pregnancy, and other (Holmes, 2011).
In the article, “Human teratogens: Update 2011,” it lists cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol intake under maternal conditions (Holmes, 2001). Although this may be true, it would seem that these would also fit under the category of drugs. In our schools today we teach children that both of these are drugs. Epilepsy and diabetes are two other maternal conditions which can affect the fetus. Even though the medications for both of them may affect the fetus, doctors do not recommend stopping the needed medications.
Alcoholism and pregnancy is widely discussed in many articles. Its effect on the fetus have been greatly researched and written about many times. Some organ systems, such as the central nervous system which includes the brain and spine, are susceptible to teratogens throughout the pregnancy (Teratogens Overview). Alcohol can have a detrimental effect on the central nervous system. Alcohol use has the potential to cause birth defects or health problems in the child (Teratogens Overview).
There is also a chance that the child will be born with fetal alcohol syndrome. This can cause facial abnormalities such as; small eye-lid openings, low set ears, and thin upper lip. It can cause problems with the central nervous system which include mental retardation, or behavioral disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and irritability (Lingen, 2006). A woman who chooses to drink during pregnancy should not be allowed to keep the baby after birth.
She has shown herself to be unfit to care for herself throughout her pregnancy. In all reality the baby will likely be a special needs child and an alcoholic mother will never be able to meet the needs of the child. Illegal drug use during pregnancy can lead to many complications, such as; low birth weight, miscarriage, stillbirth, small size, premature birth, birth defects, sudden infant death syndrome, and drug dependency (Lingen, 2006). Low birth weight increases the babies risk for illness, disability and death.
Premature birth can lead to problems of under developed lungs and eyes, and may cause learning problems. The child may be born addicted to the mother drug of choice. In these cases again, the mother has shown herself to be unfit to care for herself, so the child should not be left in her care. There are many other teratogens which may affect pregnancy, but two which I have specified seem to be more in the idea of social responsibility. We, as a society, need to take responsibility.