Effects of Teratogens

Effects of Teratogens

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Effects of Teratogens

Teratogens refer to agents or factors that disturb the normal development of a fetus or embryo and in turn cause birth defects to the child or even halt the process of pregnancy. In general, teratogens can be classified as substances, chemicals, malnutrition, stressors, radiation, maternal infections and drugs. Furthermore, behavioral teratogens actually harm the brain of the fetus while still in the womb. The effect of the teratogen on the embryo highly depends on the period during the pregnancy when the developing fetus is affected by the teratogen (Dombrowski, 2008). This is because some of the teratogens can only cause negative effect to the embryo during the early weeks or days of pregnancy.

However, some teratogens are equally harmful regardless of the pregnancy stage. More specifically drugs, which can either, be social or medication drugs ingested by the mother, can cause harm to an unborn child (Frank, 2006). Medicinal drugs refer to those drugs which are administered as a remedy to the mother for problems and can in turn have some teratogenic effects. Such medicine includes aspirin, tetracycline, diet pills and acne medication. Moreover, psychoactive drugs, which generally affect the way an individual’s mind works, can have very adverse effects on an unborn child. These drugs are illegal in most countries as they have been proven to have negative effects on the health of those who abuse them.

These include marijuana, alcohol, heroin, cocaine and tobacco. These drugs significantly slow down the development process of an embryo and in turn increase the chances of premature birth and labor. More specifically, continuous and excessive intake of alcohol during pregnancy can lead to FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). This can be described as a combination of birth defects which include slow growth of physical features. Such a child exhibits undeveloped features during birth which are deformities that begin while the embryo was still developing. Moreover, abnormal facial characteristics such as deformed nose or a missing ear are some of the examples (Dombrowski, 2008).

Additionally, retarded mental growth is also observed after birth when the child begins to grow. Unlike children his/her age, such a child is not able to learn as quickly and is generally not playful (Saugstad, 2014). All these features are observed when it’s too late after the child is born and cannot be rectified. It is therefore important for a pregnant woman to restrain from using these harmful drugs, not only for the sake of their own health wellbeing, but also for that of their unborn child. It is therefore important for a pregnant woman to attend maternal clinics so as to obtain such and more information which goes a long way into protecting and nurturing the unborn child.


In Dennery, P. A, In Buonocore, G., & In Saugstad, O. D. (2014). Perinatal and Prenatal Disorders

Martin, R., & Dombrowski, S. C.(2008). Prenatal exposure: Psychological and educational consequences for children. New York: Springer

Tronick, E. Z., Fetters, L & Frank, D. A. (2006). Effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on infanct neurobehaviour and motor functioning. Infant Behavior and Development, 19, 254.