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The fetal brain starts developing at just 2 weeks after gestation, which is before most women even know they are pregnant. According to Carolyn Robbins (2018), poor maternal nutrition can be damaging to the unborn child’s brain development. If a woman is planning to get pregnant or think they might be she should talk to her doctor and make sure that she is eating a healthy diet. Robbins discusses brain development, malnutrition and the effects of alcohol and folic acid in her article.
Robbins says that a baby’s nervous system structures begin to develop in the first trimester. In the second trimester, the baby’s brain begins to be able to process signals from other parts of the body. (Robbins, 2018) This allows the baby to have reflexes like kicking and waving as well as form memories. In the third trimester, the baby’s brain is developing to allow the baby to respond to stimuli when birthed. (Robbins, 2018) Our book goes a lot more into detail about what things begin to develop during each trimester for the baby, like when the baby starts to grow a spine, limbs, etc.
as well as how big it is. Robbins should’ve touched lightly on things like this to give the reader more of an understanding of what’s going on and how big the fetus/baby is.
Robbins (2018) goes on to talk about malnutrition during pregnancy and how it can significantly impact the fetus/baby’s brain. She says that if the fetus is not given the correct nutrients, they can later suffer from brain deficits and mental health problems.
Even someone who is living in a developed country can experience this; they may be getting the proper calories but not the proper vitamins and minerals. Robbins (2018) suggests trying to cut things out like ice cream and eat more leafy foods. Our book also talks about malnutrition and how it can cause cognitive and behavioral issues for the child later on in life. Something that Robbins referred to incorrectly is that women who are getting the calories they need but not the nutrients are actually called undernutrition. Woolfolk (2013) does talk about how a lot of women in both the United States and Canada have this issue of undernutrition. Obesity is a huge issue for expecting mothers and their unborn children and can cause things like fetal death or health issues if they survive. (Woolfolk et. al, 2013)
Robbins last two paragraphs are about alcohol and folic acid, one is extremely dangerous, and one is extremely necessary for proper growth and development. Alcohol can cause fetal alcohol syndrome which causes not only physical developmental problems but also abnormal brain development and in worse cases mental retardation. (Robbins, 2018) Drinking alcohol when pregnant is never safe but it is especially damaging during the first trimester if consumed in mass. Woolfolk (2013) goes into a little bit more detail regarding other defects or problems that women and their unborn children can encounter if drinking while pregnant. Folic acid, on the other hand, is very important for expecting mothers to consume. A folate deficiency can cause neural tube defects like spina bifida, encephalocele, and anencephaly. It is extremely important during the first 28 days of pregnancy and Robbins (2018) suggests that any woman who could potentially get pregnant should be taking a daily supplement in the case they do become pregnant. Woolfolk (2013) discusses this in our book and restates everything that Robbins discussed in her article.
Robbins didn’t discuss some other influences that could affect a baby’s proper development like teratogens, drugs (prescription/illegal), environmental hazards, and most importantly stress! All of these things can have a huge impact on how a fetus/baby will develop and what problems the mother and baby may have during pregnancy. Stress is one of the most overlooked things, in my opinion, that affects a baby’s development and the mother’s health. If a mother endures prolonged or severe emotional stress/anxiety, it can result in spontaneous abortion, preterm labor, high blood pressure for the mother, reduced birth weight and even reduced head size. (Woodfolk et. all, 2013)
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