Psy 240 - Lesson 2 Essay

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Identify the teratogens covered in this chapter and birth defects/disorders they can cause. Format your response as though you were giving a brief prevention lecture to young married couples. Your answer should be no fewer than 400 words in length.

We are all aware of genetic and hereditary factors that may impact the health of the newborn baby. However, our ability to prevent genetic disorders is limited to genetic testing of parents and prenatal diagnostic methods that can reveal early warning signs of genetic defects before birth. Another group of factors that can greatly influence the health and the development of a baby are environmental agents. These agents are commonly referred to as teratogens and include any environmental agent that can cause damage during the prenatal period. Unlike genetic factors, the damaging effects of the teratogens during the prenatal period and after birth are almost completely preventible by the parents. Most common teratogens that can impact pregnancy and child development are: prescription and non-prescription drugs, illegal drugs, alcohol, tobacco, infectious disease, radiation and environmental pollutants.

Many prescription and non-prescription drugs exert side-effects that may be harmful during the prenatal period. Even when these side-effects are not noticeable or are not affecting the mother they may be interfering with the normal prenatal development of the baby during early and later stages of the pregnancy. For this reason all newly-expecting women or those planning to become pregnant need to consult with a doctor about any prescription drugs they may have been taking and certainly before starting therapy with any new medications. Many people consider non-prescription or “over-the-counter” drugs to be safe because no physicians prescription is required for their purchase. This is a common and often a dangerous mistake. Many “over-the-counter” drugs and products are not classified as drugs but rather as nutritional supplements and as such don't require FDA licensing and control. In general these products can be dangerous to health since their contents and action mechanism have not be adequately or scientifically tested. Their consumption by pregnant or planning -to-become pregnant women can be particularly dangerous. New mothers need to consult a medical professional before using any over-the-counter products including vitamin and mineral supplements. Another category of common products that often get overlooked but can be dangerous to prenatal development and infant health are cosmetics. Many cosmetic products contain chemicals that can be harmful to the mother and the baby. For instance, many anti-acne products and “blemish-removal” products contain retinol and retinoic acid which can affect the baby during the first trimester. The retinol based “over-the-counter” products, such as Retine-A cream, are similar to the prescription drug Accutane which is prohibited for use by pregnant women as it causes damage to baby's eyes, brain, immune system, ears and skull. Other commonly used beauty products can be dangerous as well. Some examples are lipsticks that may contain lead, lotions and creams containing paraben, hair colors, tanning products and many more. The best prevention is to avoid use of pharmaceuticals, supplements and cosmetics before and during pregnancy without consulting a doctor first.

The use of illegal drugs prior to and during pregnancy and while breast feeding is extremely damaging to the baby. Commonly used “street drugs” such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamines and their derivatives cause a multitude of prenatal development abnormalities and can cause a lasting damage to the child's physical and mental health. Some of these abnormalities include: low birth weight, respiratory and cardiac difficulties, vision and hearing problems, metabolic abnormalities, premature birth and can cause death during or shortly after...
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