Teratogens During Pregnancy

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  • Topic: Pregnancy, Fetal alcohol syndrome, Fetus
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Running Head: TERATOGENS DURING PREGNANCY

Teratogens During Pregnancy
Nicole Carter
PSY 2103 – Human Development
Mary Wilson
November 9, 2010

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Teratogens During Pregnancy
Teratogens are substances that don’t impact prenatal development positively, causing birth defects and other problems. The impact of teratogens depends on its intensity and time during prenatal development when it is present. Teratogens have the highest consequences during the period of the embryo. During this time, there are critical periods when certain body structures develop. If alcohol or other harmful agents interfere with development during a critical period, the body structures will not form properly, nor will it develop later.

Alcohol is one form of a teratogen. Drinking alcohol heavily during pregnancy can cause the baby to be born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Babies with this syndrome are mentally retarded. They also have abnormally small heads with wide-set eyes and short noses. These babies exhibit behavioral problems such as hyperactivity. Some children who are prenatally exposed to alcohol have fetal alcohol effects. Even though the label on alcohol warns pregnant women not to drink during pregnancy, about 20% ignore the warnings made by the surgeon general.

Smoking is a second form of a teratogen. Smoking decreases the amount of oxygen and increase the amount of carbon monoxide crossing the placenta barrier. The baby is then exposed to nicotine and thousands of other chemicals that are in cigarettes. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of having a premature or low weight baby. The surgeon general’s warning on the pack of cigarettes also state that smoking cause’s lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and may complicate pregnancy; and yet women still ignore the warnings.

Illegal drugs are a third form of teratogen. The use of heroin, cocaine, and crack during pregnancy has been linked to miscarriage, prematurity, low birth weight, breathing defects...
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