Pregnancy, Birth and the Newborn: Focus on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
SWHB 405: Human Behavior in the Social Environment 1
From conception to birth, the mother’s role in bringing to life and nurturing a healthy baby is paramount. Factors such as the mother’s biological, psychological and social environment play important roles in determining the wellbeing of a child. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, an irreversible condition in children caused by maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy will be discussed. Its biological, psychological and societal implications will be deliberated and recommendations of interventions by Social Workers in alleviating the problem will be suggested.
Key words: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Child Development
All human life begins with a fertilized egg known as a zygote. By the eighth week, the zygote is transformed into a fetus which has most of its organs formed. After about 9 months (or 38 weeks) of going through transformation within the mother’s womb, the mother delivers a bouncing baby boy or girl into the world. During this time it is imperative that special care and attention is given to the mother and the child that she is carrying. Prenatal care ensures that the mother receives the much needed medical attention, nutritional advice and a positive life style tips. Particular attention is given unusual physiological and medical manifestations which could signal an array of life threatening situations for the mother and unborn child. The culmination of a successful pregnancy is the birth of a baby. Newborns weigh an average between 5.5 and 9.5 pounds and they are awake and alert in first hours of life. Newborns begin learning their environment immediately and one of the things they internalize is developing a connection with the mother’s voice. The six states that a baby maintains are: quiet alert, active alert, crying state, drowsiness, quiet sleep, and active sleep (Ashford & Lecroy, 2012). Babies oscillate from an awakening curious baby, peak at crying when uncomfortable, and dip through to active sleep. These changes may occur slowly or rapidly throughout the course of any given day. Consequently, knowledge about this this critical life stage, helps parents to be better equipped to cope with and nurture the newborn. Risk factors during pregnancy and at birth
Various physiological changes in a pregnant mother may cause or indicate a risk for both mother and child. A case in point is bleeding in the first trimester or late in the pregnancy which could mean possible loss of the child or neurological issues. In some instances, natural toxins could build in the mother’s bodies leading to high blood pressure and weight gain which may be fatal to the mother (Ashford & Lecroy, 2012). Further, an increased weight of the mother could bring on diabetes in the child, while low weight of the child could be a precursor to mental retardation. Biological factors that may affect the fetus’ development during pregnancy include the mother’s age, the number of children prior and how far apart she has had each child (Boyce, 2010). Environmental factors, such as living conditions, diet deficiencies, and the emotional well-being of the mother can all affect the baby during its 38 week development. Pregnant women should be mindful of substances ingested during pregnancy as these are subsequently ingested by the fetus and affect its development. This is exemplified by studies demonstrating that women who drink caffeine tend to have a lower birth rate than women who avoid caffeine (Ashford & Lecroy, 2012). Other substances that could affect fetal development by causing birth deformities, premature births and possible hyperactivity include tobacco, over the counter medications, hormones and alcohol. Prenatal care there has been shown to dramatically improve the...