The Prenatal Environment of the Developing Organism 1
The developing unborn baby is being studied today in ways that were not possible a short time ago. Increased sophistication in technology, such as ultrasound imaging, has allowed us to examine the developing organism early in development and with great detail. Newer technology, such as the MRI, is giving us an even more accurate, intricate description of the developing fetus (Fetal MRI, 2004). Where are we going with this technology? Hopefully we will see increased corrections on damaged fetuses. This is in the hands of the medical and science community. For the rest of the general community, the increased understanding of the developing organism will hopefully lead to a greater awareness of the influences in the environment that affect prenatal conditions. In this essay I will discuss some of these factors. I will also discuss some of the difficulties in finding pure cause and effect results with these environmental influences. I will conclude this essay with a personal assessment on what we ought to do to protect individuals from the environmental risks that exist. The environment begins to influence the individual as soon as he or she is conceived. As the zygote undergoes mitosis, the new cells become part of the mother’s environment (Cole, Cole, & Lightfoot, 2005, p. 73). Although the developing organism in the uterus is well protected, it is not completely sheltered. Environmental influences on prenatal development can range from pollution and stress from the outside world to drugs and viruses in the mother’s bloodstream. It is unlikely that a woman can go through pregnancy without experiencing periods of stress. Being under too much stress, however, can influence the developing organism in negative ways (Cole et al, 2005, p. 82). A person who is under a lot of stress produces the hormones adrenalin and cortisol. A pregnant woman who secretes these hormones will pass them through the placenta into the fetus (Cole et al, 2005, p. 82). Some studies show that there is a greater risk of miscarriage and more birth defects if there has been intense stress in early pregnancy (Greenfield, 2004). Other findings show that more The Prenatal Environment of the Developing Organism 2 premature and low birth weight babies are born to women who experience severe stress during pregnancy (Cole et al, 2005, p. 83). A woman’s attitude can also play a significant role in the development of an unborn baby. The study conducted by Henry David in Czechoslovakia in the 1960’s and 1970’s shows an example of this connection (as cited in Cole et al, 2005, p. 82). The mothers in the study who had negative attitudes toward their unborn children gave birth to babies that weighed less and were more likely to need medical care (82). Newly emerging research is also showing that having a positive mental attitude is a colossal protector in coping with stress (Raison, 2008). Not only does a positive attitude lead to a better chance of producing a healthy newborn, it also can be used to combat the inevitable stresses that will occur during pregnancy. A pregnant woman is essentially eating for two. The nutrients from the food eaten by the mother are passed down to the unborn baby (Cole et al, 2005, p. 83). It is essential that a pregnant woman eats a balanced diet consisting of many vitamins and minerals, including supplementation of folic acid, calcium and iron (Cole et al, 2005, p. 83). Unborn babies are affected by their mother’s application of nutrition in their diet. This nutritional influence may be bigger than previously thought. The fetus may be affected more than the mother with lack of nourishment (Willis, 2010). The performance of the placenta can possibly be affected by a mother’s lacking in proper nutritional intake (Willis, 2010). Studies also indicate that mothers who are malnourished or undernourished are more likely to have miscarriages...
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