Teratogens are substances, which when exposed to pregnant women, they cause harmful effects to the fetus before or after birth. After birth, exposure to the teratogens may be necessitated through breastfeeding. These teratogens include alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription/nonprescription medication, vaccines, environmental and occupational exposures among other things. Whenever a pregnant woman is exposed to such teratogens, the teratogen is absorbed into the bloodstream and then passed onto the developing fetus through the placenta. In this study, teratogen alcohol is discussed. Teratogen alcohol is a widely recognized teratogen used by pregnant women. Additionally, this teratogen is ranked among the leading teratogens that cause physical malformations, neurological, and mental retardation in fetuses.
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In regards to the effects of alcohol on a fetus, the effects may be minor or severe. Once a pregnant woman consumes alcohol, the alcohol level in her blood is equivalent to the alcohol level in the fetus’ blood only after a few minutes. The toxic nature of alcohol affects the growing cell of the fetus. This hinders development and placement. However, the extent of damage by this teratogen to the fetus is dependent on the amount, pattern, timing of exposure, and genetic makeup. The consumption rate of alcohol by the pregnant woman is a major determinant of the extent of the damage. Pregnant women with a low consumption rate, probably 2 to 4 on frequent drinks, will have a fetal alcohol effect on the fetus. This effect is characterized by developmental delays, lowered hyperactivity of the child, and low miscarriage risks. On the other hand, pregnant women who are heavy consumers of alcohol, probably chronic (5-6 bottles of alcohol daily) and binge drinkers, may experience Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) (Roberton, and South, p. 285). In such a case, the risks of miscarriage are high, and in cases where the miscarriage does not happen, the fetus succumbs to long term effects before and/or after birth. These effects are permanent and are known as a primary disability. These include head and facial abnormalities such as small head, eyes, and nose; mental retardation due to brain impairment and heart defects.
Apart from the above impacts, exposure to alcohol has other risks. These are known as secondary effects. The affected children experience secondary effects associated with social life. These secondary effects include homelessness, joblessness, social isolation, mental problems, behavioural problems, learning difficulties, as well as difficulties in managing anger and personal relationship with others. However, secondary effects are not usually present in all those who have FAS. They experience hardships integrating with the community. In most cases, they require assistance from various systems like health, housing, education, and social services amongst others to be integrated into society. For this reason, the effect of this damage is not only suffered by the individual alone, but also to those around him/her. This includes family and society.
On the front of technological advancement, this teratogen problem has reduced recently. Studies have shown that there are several factors that determine the onset and continued use of alcohol by an individual. These are the genetic makeup, surrounding environment, and metabolism. These factors also relate to the pattern of alcohol exposure and risks of alcohol dependence. The technological advances have led to the identification of genes associated with alcohol dependence, as well as their interaction with the environment and metabolic factors. Development of disorders and complexities in behavior is controlled by the interaction of genetic factors with the environmental factors. This has led to the introduction of lifespan perspective to understand the effect of this teratogen.
As far as the steps to reduce the effect of this teratogen are concerned, a lot of attention is required. However, this can be applied to overcome secondary effects. First and foremost, early diagnosis and assessment of the child is necessary regardless of their age. Next, monitoring of the child’s health and physical development is highly recommended. This helps to establish the extent of damage and measures to be applied. As earlier mentioned, it is necessary to provide a home environment that is safe and stable. Relative to the behavioral problems, clear and concrete measures should be used to correct their behavior (Bernstein and Shelov, p. 272). This is attributed to the fact that the affected individuals experience difficulties in understanding and predicting the impacts of their actions. In addition, they can be easily influenced, thus prone to negative behaviors. Appropriate education and training should be emphasized to overcoming learning and joblessness. The affected children should be taken to institutions designed to cater for individuals with FAS. Learning and job placements should be based on an individual’s ability Furthermore, respite should be provided to the parents or caretakers handling the affected individuals.
The embryo and fetus development stages of life are the most vulnerable to teratogen effects particularly alcohol. Alcohol exposure to the fetus cause primary disabilities such as physical malformations and neurological dysfunction and secondary effects later in life. They range from minor to severe effects to the fetus based on the amount Fetal alcohol syndrome is the adverse effect of exposure to alcohol during pregnancy. Preventive measures of these effects lie in reducing the damage caused due to its exposure and more significant minimizing or prohibiting alcohol consumption amongst pregnant women. Finally, the other relevant sites related to this teratogen are http://rsoa.org/fas.html and http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fas/default.htm.
Bernstein, Daniel, and S. P Shelov. Pediatrics for Medical Students. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2012. Print.
Roberton, Don M., and M J. South. Practical Paediatrics. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier, 2006. Print.