Maternal Behaviour on the Development of the Poetus

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Madhavi Indarjeet Lower Sixth B Biology Research Paper “Effect of Maternal Behaviour on Foetal Development.”

When Abraham Lincoln said "the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world," he understood the power of women in this world. The maternal being is the mother and it is she who actually brings us whether we are male or female into this world. Hence, it is only natural for her behaviour to have an effect on the foetus’ development. The behaviour being referred to here may be physical and psychological behaviours which may be either negative or positive. Physical behaviour would not only include the taking of drugs, use of alcohol and unnecessary medication but also proper nutrition, exercise, getting enough sleep, and checking with the gynaecologist. On the other hand, psychological behaviours would include anxiety, depression, fear, stress and also elation, happiness and sensitivity. According to a review, “Early Human Development” (Mulder E. J. H. et al), intrauterine exposure to social drugs for example alcohol and marijuana etc. , may cause structural and at times functional development deficiency which may result in life- long physical and mental handicaps. A pregnant woman who uses drugs during pregnancy increases the risk for not only her baby but herself as she can suffer from anaemia, blood and heart conditions, skin infections, hepatitis and other infections. The use of drugs during pregnancy is critical to the foetus’ health as now its main body systems are forming and it causes severe damage during the formation. Marijuana crosses the placenta to the foetus and reduces the amount of oxygen needed for growth as it raises the level of carbon dioxide in the mother’s blood. Nicotine readily crosses the placenta, and causes vasoconstriction of the umbilical arteries and impedes placental blood flow. Carbon monoxide can bind with haemoglobin to reduce the capacity of the blood to transport oxygen. These factors, combined, are likely account for the developmental delays commonly seen in the foetuses and infants of smoking mothers. Nicotine alters the developing lung of the foetus as well as cause a loss of oxygen to cells which would impair normal development in the central nervous system. It can also cause heart defects, impairment to learning, memory and perception as well as cognition. The use of heroin increases the chance of premature birth, hypoglycaemia, intracranial haemorrhage and infant death as well as the newborn may suffer from withdrawal symptoms. Pregnant women who consume alcohol in amounts not healthy for their health state risk the chance of their unborn baby of getting foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). In a case of FAS, alcohol crosses the placental barrier and can stunt foetal growth and weight, damage neurons and brain structures which can result in both physical and psychological problems. FAS is the main cause of damage to the central nervous system, especially to the brain. Developing brain cells and structures are malformed or have development interrupted by prenatal alcohol exposure; this can create an array of primary cognitive and functional disabilities (including poor memory, attention deficits, impulsive behaviour, and poor cause-effect reasoning) as well as secondary disabilities (for example,...
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