Factors that Affect Prenatal Development

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Updated: Jun 07, 2021
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What are the factors that can affect prenatal development? There are many ways that prenatal development may be affected during pregnancy. Teratogens are environmental factors that can cause a birth defect. Although the placenta can keep teratogens from reaching the fetus, almost every fetus is exposed to some types of teratogens. Five factors that might affect prenatal development are the mother’s diet, the mothers age, prenatal support, the mother’s health, and drug or alcohol use. Each of these points can affect pregnancy and how the fetus develops.

The way the mother eats has a major impact on prenatal development. The healthier the mom is before and during pregnancy, the healthier her baby is going to be. The mother being overweight or underweight can cause birth defects. Mothers who are overweight can risk their fetus’ health. These fetus’ can be larger than normal, and it can cause problems during delivery. The fetus can also learn nutritional habits from the mother that follow them for the rest of their life (Keenan). It’s important that the mother always maintains her health because poor nutrition can cause poor fetal development. Although some mothers have access to different foods that can help them with their pregnancies, a lot of mothers do not. Some mothers can’t provide food for themselves and their fetus because of their living conditions. There are millions of people who are starving in this world and this can have a major impact on pregnancies. People who have strict dietary restrictions can’t consume foods that their baby might need and those who are malnourished might not have access or money for food. If certain foods aren’t an option for some people, dietary supplements may be available (Keenan). Different vitamins, minerals, and nutrients can help the fetus’ development. If a mother eats foods that are high in nutrients, they usually have an easier pregnancy and a healthier baby. Deficiencies in certain vitamins can cause certain birth defects (Stanten). In addition to the mother’s diet, the mothers age can raise health problems.

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Depending on how old or young a mother is, her age can affect prenatal development. Mothers that become pregnant in their late 30’s or 40’s can risk the fetus’ health because their eggs aren’t normal. They become less fertile and don’t produce as many eggs per month. Since there’s a decrease in the amount of eggs, the eggs that are left have a higher chance of being abnormal. A fetus developing missing, damaged, or extra chromosomes is increased as the mother becomes older (ACOG). Prematurity and down syndrome are two of the most common birth defects that can occur depending on how old the mother is during conception. The risk of having a baby with down syndrome is 1 in 1,480 at age 20 years, 1 in 940 at age 30 years, 1 in 353 at age 35 years, 1 in 85 at age 40 years, and 1 in 35 at age 45 years (ACOG). This information concludes that there is a very high risk of a fetus developing down syndrome depending on how old the mother is. 1 in 35 mothers that have a child with down syndrome is very high and they need to be aware of these risks before conception. The mother’s personal health can also be affected by their age. Older mothers have a higher risk of developing health problems during pregnancy. Because older women have more health problems than younger women, these different problems can affect their child’s development. Although older mothers have a higher risk of complications, young mothers can also experience problems during pregnancy. Mothers that are pregnant between the ages of 13 and 19 can affect the development of the fetus. Since these fetus’ might not have enough time to develop, different health problems and prematurity can occur (Colorado). There is also a higher chance of mortality if the mother has a baby in her adolescent years. Teenage mothers might not receive the prenatal support that they need which can also lead to problems during pregnancy.

The amount of prenatal support the mother receives can affect prenatal development. The mother should go to their health care provider to ensure that their pregnancy is going smoothly. Ultrasound exams, physical exams, and blood tests are some of the tests that may be done to check the mother’s and the fetus’ health. Health care providers can guide mothers through their pregnancy by answering any questions that they might have (Ayoola). Prenatal care can help the mother become more educated about pregnancy and it can show her what to expect. It’s very important to go to every checkup during prenatal care to see if any major changes have happened. Going to every appointment can decrease the risk of complications during pregnancy. A lot of people who don’t seek prenatal care can have major problems arise during pregnancy (Colorado). Although prenatal care is very important, some mothers don’t have prenatal visits. Some mothers might not have insurance or the time to make prenatal visits. The children of teenage mothers have high mortality rates because of the lack of prenatal support that their mothers receive. A lot of younger mothers don’t have jobs because of their age or because of their involvement in school, which can cause a problem when it comes to affording prenatal care. These teenage mothers also receive little support from their family members because they don’t agree with having a child at such a young age. A lot of teenage fathers provide little support in prenatal care because they’re also very young and can’t afford to have a baby. The mother should always be in a healthy environment to ensure that her pregnancy is as stress free as possible. The father can produce a toxic environment for the mother if there is any abuse going on. Abuse can cause problems during prenatal development and it can cause a lot of mental and physical pain. Although it can be challenging, mothers should always try to make every prenatal visit. Without prenatal care, the mother will never know if something is wrong with their pregnancy (Ayoola). Always keeping up with the fetus’ and the mother’s health is very important.

The health of the mother can serve a risk for the health of the fetus. It’s very important to maintain weight and exercise during pregnancy. Exercising around 30 minutes a day can provide many benefits to the women’s health during pregnancy (Stanten). One major benefit of exercising while pregnant is the ease of discomfort. Although exercising provides benefits, it should not be taken overboard. Exercising too often or aggressively can cause harm to the fetus. Exercising can be important when it comes to the mother’s weight gain. Weight gain is something that should always be watched before and during pregnancy. 25-35 pounds is the average amount of weight that a mother should gain during pregnancy (Stanten). People who are overweight or underweight might have certain exceptions to their weight gain. Mothers that keep track of their health can lower their chances of getting sick. Sicknesses and diseases that the mother may have can cause problems in fetal development. Certain sexually transmitted diseases can be passed on to the fetus which can cause them to suffer with the disease when they are born. If AIDS is passed on to a fetus while they’re in the womb, they’ll have to take antiviral medicine for the rest of their life. Obesity, asthma, and diabetes are some of the few diseases that are known to cause problems during birth (Black). Rubella can cause major birth defects on a fetus if the mother catches it prior to 11 weeks of pregnancy. Brain damage, blindness, and heart defects are some of the few ways that rubella can affect a fetus. One of the most dangerous types of sicknesses is drug abuse.

Any drugs or alcohol the mother decides to use can cause prenatal health risks or even death. Illicit drugs can be harmful to the mother and to the fetus. The use of illicit drugs is dangerous during pregnancy because if the drugs aren’t bought from a medical professional, they could be laced with something even more dangerous. Marijuana is one of the most common illicit drugs used in this society. Although it might not seem like marijuana can affect the mother or the baby, it can reduce the amount of oxygen that it given to the fetus. Once the baby is born, it can be more irritable or nervous than other infants. These infants can also develop learning and memory problems throughout their lifetime. Cocaine is another major drug that can affect prenatal development. The use of cocaine decreases the amount of blood flow and oxygen in the fetus. This can lead to birth defects, seizures, and a low birth weight. Another problem associated with the use of cocaine during pregnancy is the child being born addicted to cocaine. These babies are so familiar with the presence of cocaine in the womb that they go through a withdrawal. If the baby is not directly affected by the cocaine, the environment that they are raised in can impact their life. A lot of mothers that use cocaine receive bad prenatal care and live in an unhealthy environment. If the mother wants her child to live a happy and healthy life, cutting cocaine out of her life is the only solution. Another major problem of the use of illicit drugs is the risk of serving jail time. Living in jail while pregnant can take a toll on the mother’s mental health and it could affect the baby. There is almost no prenatal care given in prison and the babies are separated from their mothers shortly after birth. The mother could also risk losing parental rights over their child depending on how long their jail time is. Although illicit drugs are very dangerous for the fetus and the mother, legal drugs also have risks. Medicine that people take almost daily can cause major defects in prenatal development. Aspirin and birth control are two common drugs that can hurt the fetus.

Aspirin can cause fatal bleeding and birth control can cause defects in brain structures. Alcohol can also lead to different defects in prenatal development (Black). No alcohol should be consumed once a mother is pregnant. The smallest amount of alcohol is not safe for a fetus and it should always be avoided. If a mother drinks while pregnant, their fetus has the chance of developing fetal alcohol syndrome (Colorado). Fetal alcohol syndrome can cause mental retardation and a low level of intelligence. Drinking while pregnant can also impact how the child behaves and functions. A child shouldn’t have to suffer because of the bad actions that the mother decides to do during pregnancy. Something that is harmful, but not as dangerous as illicit drugs and alcohol is tobacco. Tobacco and secondhand smoke can affect prenatal development. The ingredients in tobacco can reach the fetus and cause birth defects. Fetus’ receive a reduced amount of oxygen and the nicotine in cigarettes can speed up their hearts. These babies can be premature, and they have a higher chance of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (Colorado). Mothers should always be careful when they’re around smoke because even though they’re not smoking it, it can still affect their body. If a mother is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, they should seek help. Different types of counseling and programs are available to help prevent mistakes during pregnancy because of an addiction. Drugs and alcohol are two out of the many ways that complications can arise during prenatal development.

Each of these five points are important factors that a mother should keep in mind while pregnant. The mother’s diet can raise certain health concerns that can affect the babies’ diet for the rest of its life. Any problems can occur during prenatal development, but mothers who are older or younger can cause more complications to develop. Prenatal care helps mothers stay on track with their pregnancy so that no complications arise. It’s important that the mother keeps up with her personal health and that medications for sicknesses are approved by doctors. Drugs, alcohol, and tobacco are some of the most damaging things that can affect the mother and prenatal development. Overall, pregnancy can be very hard for women and there’s a lot they must do to ensure that there are no problems with the fetus’ prenatal development. They should always listen to their doctor’s advice and do what it takes to have a smooth pregnancy. It might be hard adjusting to pregnancy and changing their daily regimen but once they have a healthy and happy baby, it will all be worth it.


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  6. Stanten, Michele. (1996, February). Say bye-bye to baby fat; eating for two doesn’t mean you have to look like it after delivery. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.eztcc.vccs.edu:2048/ps/retrieve.do?tabID=Magazines&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchResultsType=MultiTab&searchType=AdvancedSearchForm&currentPosition=1&docId=GALE%7CA17864447&docType=Article&sort=Relevance&contentSegment=&prodId=SCIC&contentSet=GALE%7CA17864447&searchId=R1&userGroupName=viva2_vccs&inPS=true
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Factors That Affect Prenatal Development. (2021, Jun 07). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/factors-that-affect-prenatal-development/