For my research topic, I chose environmental problems in prenatal development. I chose this topic because I have a great interest in prenatal development and the care the mother provides that will negatively affect the fetus while it is still developing. Learning about the problems that occur will be an enormous advantage with my future career in nursing. Throughout my research, I hope to discover what the symptoms, of environmental influences, a fetus can contract during development.
During prenatal development there are so many problems that you cannot even count them.
There are two types of problems in development, genetic and environmental. The environmental problems are caused by the care the mother provides for her unborn child. Whatever the mother puts her body through, she puts her child through. Teratogens are drugs or other substances that are capable of restricting the development of a fetus, causing birth defects. Although the embryo is sensitive during all stages, there are more critical time periods when the fetus is more susceptible to the defects.
During these critical periods, there are three major environmental problems that affect the fetus, which can cause birth defects, by the mother’s use of drugs, diseases, and mental and physical health. There are three major teratogens that affect the fetus in development; one is by the mother’s use of drugs. There are many mothers throughout the world use and abuse prescription, legal and illegal drugs.
The use of prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as illegal drugs.
Some mothers need to take prescribed drugs for their own health problems. Women who have seizures must take anticonvulsants to stop the seizures from occurring. The seizures the pregnant mother has can cause just as much damage than the drugs they are taking (Boyd and Bee, 2009, p. 72). Pregnant women taking Trimethadione for their seizures can cause the fetus to obtain many progressive defects such as eyebrows shaped like a V, cleft lip, cleft palate, and having delays in their development (Slater and Lewis, 2006, p. 9). Another drug pregnant mothers might be prescribed for would be blood thinners, because of possible blood clots, to prevent heart attacks or strokes (DirectGov, 2010).
An expecting mother who has been taking Warfarin to slow down blood clots should assume that her child can be born with mental retardation and an unusually small head, known as microcephaly (Slater and Lewis, 2006, p. 9). Certain infants with microcephaly develop normally and have the intellect as an ordinary child. Typically, infants with microcephaly possibly can have facial distortions, mental retardation, deferred motor skills, hyperactivity, dwarfism, seizures, difficulty with balancing and coordination, and other neurological irregularities (DirectGov, 2010). Every mother experiences fatigue and nausea. Decades ago, doctors would prescribe Thalidomide, a sedative, to treat the fatigue and nausea.
After these mothers gave birth, doctors have detected that the Thalidomide has many defects on the fetus. Infants were born with only half developed or absent arms or legs (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2010 p. 1). Antibiotics are normally safe to take when consulted with a doctor. Pregnant women take antibiotics for certain types of infections. One often prescribed antibiotic to pregnant women is Tetracycline which can cause damage to the infant such as yellowing or graying of the teeth. It also can be passed through breast milk and if the child infant drinks the milk, there will be a chance they might affect the growth of bones and teeth (Cerner Multum, 2009).
Despite the abuse of prescription drugs, there is also the use of legal drugs. There are many women who are pregnant and smoking. The use of nicotine during pregnancy will cause a few deficiencies in the infant’s development. Nicotine users may have the chance to have an ectopic pregnancy, where the baby connects to the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus. This could result in a miscarriage. Mothers who smoke, throughout the entire pregnancy, can give birth to a stillborn or child with low birth weight (Bucher, 2010). The long term effects on children, whose mothers smoked during pregnancy, could develop attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Boyd & Bee, 2009, p. 74).
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder that causes absent- mindedness and spontaneity (ADAM, 2011). Another illegal drug that is very highly abused in pregnancy is alcohol. Mothers who are heavy drinkers or alcoholics are highly likely to give birth to infants with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Fetal alcohol syndrome is a problem with mental and physical growth that occurs when the mother abuses alcohol during pregnancy. Infants with fetal alcohol syndrome have many symptoms.
They include stunted growth before and after birth, reduced muscle usage and dexterity, deferred mental and physical development, possible mental retardation and heart weaknesses including ventricular septal defect and atrial septal defect (Adam, 2011). These children will also have very distinctive facials features that stand out. Infants will typically have smaller heads, a flattened nose with a big space between the nose and mouth, narrow eyes and small upper jaw Depending on the period in pregnancy, alcohol might cause a miscarriage and premature birth (Boyd & Bee, 2009, p.74).
Along with prescription and legal drugs, illegal drugs are especially dangerous during the course of pregnancy. So many people become addicted to drugs and have a hard time getting clean. Expecting mothers who are hooked on any type of illegal drug can be incredibly damaging to the infant. Marijuana is the most common manipulated illegal drug. Infants born to mothers that are marijuana users have more trouble concentrating, problems sleeping, and a short term memory (Boyd & Bee, 2009, p. 73). Additional drugs that are mistreated are heroin and methadone. Mothers addicted to these two drugs will have babies addicted to them as well and are at possible risk of miscarriage, premature birth and preterm death (Boyd & Bee, 2009, p. 73).
The symptoms of the heroin addicted infants are underprivileged growth, premature birth and stillbirth (March of Dimes Foundation, 2011). After birth, these addicted babies go into withdrawal and suffer from bad temper, intense shuddering, vomiting, seizures and sleep complications (Boyd & Bee, 2009, p.73). Babies who are addicted to methadone have almost similar symptoms to those addicted to heroin. The difference is that methadone addicted infants have a higher birth weight compared to infants addicted to heroin. Methadone babies are comforted more easily then heroin babies (March of Dime Foundation, 2011). A drug also abused by expectant mothers is cocaine. Cocaine can be in two formations, both powder form or crack; they equally have the same effects on babies.
Many problems of cocaine use during pregnancy are exceedingly threatening. These problems include placenta problems, such as, placental abruption which is when the placenta pulls away from the uterus prior labor starts. When this happens, there could be an exceeding amount of bleeding; the baby may be deprived of oxygen and a proper blood flow. The symptoms after birth can be harsh for the infants, for instance, they experience jumpiness, irritability, and are very easily frightened. These infants cry often because they have trouble finding comfort with their mothers or caregivers. Luckily for these babies, they usually do not experience these symptoms through their entire life, normally just first month of life (March of Dimes, 2011).
Besides the issues that are caused by pregnant mothers drug use, there are many complications with the mother’s diseases. There are three different types of infections that could be passed down from mother to child, congenital infections, perinatal infections, and postnatal infections. Congenital infections are passed through the placenta and infect embryo. These infections include toxoplasmosis, syphilis, hepatitis B, Coxsackie virus, Epstein virus, chickenpox virus, human parvovirus, Rubella, Herpes virus, and Cytomegalovirus (Koo, 2009). Rubella is also known as the German measles and expecting mothers can pass this down to her infant in utero. Symptoms the fetus may develop are cataracts, hearing loss, and heart defects. CMV, also known as Cytomegalovirus, is a sexually transmitted disease and is a type of herpes virus. Having this disease while pregnant can be severe to the fetus’ life and cause eye, ear and brain defects in the early stages of prenatal development (Boyd & Bee, 2009, p. 74).
Infants who developed CMV after birth are less likely to have harsh symptoms then those developed in utero. Those symptoms are vision and hearing loss and possible cognitive learning disabilities (Koo, 2009). Herpes is another congenital infection that can be extremely harmful in the development of the fetus. Mothers infected with herpes can pass down to her child many unpleasant symptoms. The significant symptoms include eye diseases, callous brain damage and skin lacerations (Koo, 2009). Substantial symptoms of herpes include seizures, neurological complications, microcephaly and microophthalmia. Microophthalmia is an eye abnormality that occurs before birth. This condition makes both eyes smaller than an average child and in some individuals their eyes may be nonexistent connected with blindness (Slater & Lewis, 2006, p. 9).
The perinatal infections, also known as the infection that happens in labor and delivery, take place in the birth canal while the baby is in the process of being born. Many of these infections are sexually transmitted diseases such as CMV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, HPV (genital warts), and group B streptococci. Mothers with gonorrhea giving birth to their child will distribute the infection to her child. The main symptom the infant could experience is difficulties with the eyes and possibly goes blind. The mother can encounter complications including miscarriage, early labor and likelihood of obtaining HIV (Baby Center Advisory Board, 2007, p. 1). Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world. Mothers with this disease are capable of passing the disease to her child through delivery.
When delivering the child vaginally, the infant could contract serious eye infections. Infants exposed to chlamydia also have the possibility of acquiring pneumonia. Fortunately, if treated properly children will usually do well and have a suitable recovery. If mothers receive treatment before delivery there would be a greater chance of the infant not obtaining the infection altogether (Baby Center Advisory Board, 2012). Expecting mothers with HPV do not really transfer the infection to their infants but if it is transferred, the baby’s system will normally disperse it from their bodies. However, women with genital warts may transfer this virus to their child and can be extremely life- threatening. These infants infected with genital warts form warts in their throat causing respiratory papillomatosis. The children with respiratory papillomatosis must receive laser treatment to stop the warts from multiplying and obstructing the child’s airway.
Doctors say that the women with HPV can deliver their children safely with little or no complications (WebMD, 2012, p. 1-2). Along with congenital and perinatal infections, postnatal infections are also particularly hazardous. Postnatal infections are caused after birth and are usually spread through breastfeeding. These infections include CMV, HIV, and group B streptococci. HIV can also be transmitted congenital and perinatal but HIV can be transferred postnatal via breastfeeding (Stewart, 2012). Babies who obtain this virus normally become sick within the first two years of their life. This illness will decline the infant’s immune system which makes them easily susceptible to getting other virus than the average baby (Boyd & Bee, 2009, p. 74-75). Another illness that infants attain after birth is group B streptococci (GBS).
Group B strep is bacteria found in a woman’s vagina. GBS is transferred to infants after birth with symptoms of issues with the respiratory system, and erratic cardio problems. These babies may also have severe digestive tract problems. Along with these issues, the most familiar complications involve sepsis, an increasing amount of bacteria in the bloodstream, pneumonia, and meningitis, a bacterial infection of membranes concealing the brain and spinal cord. Group B streptococci usually will occur earlier than later after the delivery and have fewer problems if it appears later (American Pregnancy Association, 2011). There are many problems affecting the fetus that arise from the mother’s mental and physical health throughout her pregnancy. The age of the mother can make an immense difference in child birth.
Mothers over the age of thirty five can have many complications to her health and child’s health. Women who push back pregnancy to later in life have the risks of developing gestational diabetes, infertility, possible miscarriage, early labor and extensive bleeding during labor. High blood pressure and chronic illnesses are also potential threats in older mothers (Baby Center Medical Advisory Board, 2012). These infants have a chance of developing chromosomal defects, cardiac abnormalities and growth retardation (Boyd & Bee, 2009). On the other hand, teenage pregnancy has just as many risks as women over thirty five. Teenage girls who are pregnant sometimes do not receive proper prenatal care, which can lead to issues in the fetus’ development. Pregnant teens can also experience high blood pressure which could result in preterm labor. Preterm labor may cause infants to have cognitive, respiratory and other physical complications.
Teens that go into preterm have a chance of low birth weight infants that might not be fully developed. Teenagers are highly likely to obtain STD’s and pass them to their infants during delivery which can be vital in their growth and development. Young mothers are potential victims for postpartum depression, making them feel alone, isolated and feeling like no one is there for them (Nihira, 2010, p.1-2). Along with age, other maternal influences affect the fetus such as emotions and ill mothers who go through radiation for medical purposes. Pregnancy can mess with women’s emotions tremendously. Mothers who are really stressed or have anxiety might have troubles eating properly and may be prone to viruses which can cause the infant to be born with low birth weight.
Children born to really distraught mothers will usually develop slower than the average child (Boyd & Bee, 2009, p. 77). Pregnant women with an inconsistent metabolism could have heavier infants and are more likely to have problems early in development (Slater & Lewis, 2006, p. 9). Women with certain medical problems may need to go for radiation although they are pregnant. Radiation while pregnant can affect the fetus by killing the cells in its body, injuring the chromosomes, and retarding the mental and physical growth (Brent, 2011).
Despite all of these developmental problems each infant goes through, the illness and defects can be somewhat prevented if treated early in the pregnancy. Each woman should think twice about what they put through their bodies when expecting a baby. Environmental problems are life threatening and women need to consult with their doctors immediately to lessen the risk of their child developing any symptoms. There are critical periods when the fetus is the most vulnerable to these environmental influences. Even though there are critical periods, the mother’s use of drugs, diseases, and mental and physical health are very serious through the entire pregnancy.
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