Teratogens: Find out what is best for mother and baby!

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Author: Dr. Shilpa Choudhary

In order to prevent exposure to teratogens during pregnancy, it is imperative to raise public awareness about potential risks.

“We are aware that not all birth deformities are curable. Yet by making every effort to be as healthy as you can both before and during pregnancy, you can raise your chances of having a healthy baby.”

Purpose of the article

The major goal of this article is to raise public awareness of the long-term effects that teratogens can have on a mother’s and her unborn child’s health. Throughout the articles, many teratogen types are discussed along with their effects on fetuses and pregnant mothers.

It demonstrates how quickly drugs pass the placental barrier and end up in the body of the fetus as well as in the mother’s milk. It may therefore affect the child’s growth both before and after birth.

Author Introduction

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Dr. Shilpa Choudhary

Dr. Shilpa Choudhary is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Life Sciences, Parishkar Group of Colleges, Jaipur. She has done their Ph.D. work in the field of Developmental Biology and Teratology at IIS University, Jaipur. She studied pregnant females and their fetuses for Congenital abnormalities and their protection by phytodrugs to provide them with a safe environment to grow the baby and herself also.

She presented related Research papers at many International and National Conferences. She is keen to learn new things and make a positive impact on the lives of pregnant women. She has a great interest in research, particularly in Reproductive biology and Teratology ahead. She is an expert in Animal Physiology, Animal Behaviour, and Applied Zoology also. She is always eager to learn and flexible in any circumstance.


Prenatal and Postnatal Effects of Teratogens: Find out what is best for mother and baby

Sensitivity to teratogens during pregnancy.
Pic Credit: https://www.intechopen.com/chapters/72507 (Sensitivity to teratogens during pregnancy)

How often do teratogenic birth abnormalities occur?

4% to 5% of congenital diseases are caused by fetal exposure to teratogens. The effects of teratogen exposure on physical and cognitive development have also been demonstrated by studies.

An agent that disrupts healthy embryonic development and results in congenital defects is known as a teratogen. Teratology is the study of how environmental factors impair normal development. 

No matter what stage of development they occur in or where they act, teratogenic exposures during prenatal development produce problems.

The majority of structural abnormalities brought on by teratogenic exposures happen during the embryonic stage when vital developmental processes are happening and the building blocks of organ systems are being laid. Various organ systems are more susceptible to external substances for varying lengths of time. Teratogens can potentially raise the chance of stillbirth, premature labor, or miscarriage. Teratogens should always be avoided during pregnancy.

Some Teratogens

  • Teratogens are substances that can harm the fetus during pregnancy.
  • Alcohol, cigarettes, and recreational drugs
  • The known teratogens include alcohol, tobacco, and recreational substances.
  • The central nervous system of the fetus is impacted by alcohol. Fetal alcohol syndrome risk is increased in pregnant women who drink alcohol.
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome is a condition that can result in physical and behavioral impairments as well as atypical facial characteristics, a tiny head and brain, and other physical defects. There is no alcohol consumption level that is deemed safe during pregnancy.
  • Smoking cigarettes is linked to miscarriage, early birth, and fetal development restriction. Smoking also has an impact on the developing fetus’s delicate brain and lungs.
  • Neonatal abstinence syndrome, low birth weight, and heart issues can all result from substance use during pregnancy, including cocaine, methamphetamines, heroin, and marijuana.
  • Infections can also result from sharing needles. 5% of people use these drugs while they are pregnant.

Importance of Medication Disclosure and Safety in Pregnancy

A few prescription drugs and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are regarded as teratogens. As a result, it’s crucial that you let your doctor know about any medications you use. When using supplements or OTC drugs, read the labeling. Call your doctor if you are uncertain about a substance’s safety. Until you hear from them, it’s advisable to stay away from the material.

Some examples of teratogenic medications are:

thermometer on medical pills
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

• Antiepileptic medication (AEDs).

• Antimicrobials.

• Clotting agents (blood thinners).

• Anti-thyroid drugs.

• A vitamin (a common ingredient in skincare products).

• Hormone-related drugs.

Healthcare professionals analyze the advantages and disadvantages of prescription drug use to decide which provides the least risk to the unborn child. For instance, phenytoin is a drug used to treat seizures. Although it harms the developing fetus, it could be medically required for the pregnant woman.

It’s best to defer to your obstetrician’s decision on the safety of medicine and rely on their knowledge.

Infections and viruses

A pregnant woman’s health and the health of the fetus can be seriously endangered by infections, viruses, parasites, and other bacterial disorders. Some of these can be grouped together –

• Toxoplasma (an infection that spreads through cat feces).

• Other illnesses such as listeria, candida, group B streptococcus, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

• Rubella.

• The Cytomegalovirus (CMV).

• The herpes simplex virus.

• Syphilis.

Infections and viruses that can affect the fetus or complicate a pregnancy include chickenpox and shingles.

• Viral hepatitis, such as Hepatitis B, C, and others.

• HIV.

• Fifth illness.

Environmental toxins, chemicals, or other physical agents

Congenital defects can be brought on by specific chemicals and substances. These congenital defects include neurological issues, cleft palates, and spina bifida. 

  • Radiation exposure (from X-rays) or chemotherapy are two examples of toxins or chemicals.

• Saunas, hot tubs, and other places with heat that increase body temperature.

A. Mercury (found in certain types of fish).

• Lead (often found in paint and plumbing in older homes) (commonly found in paint and pipes in older homes).

• Hazardous substances or heavy metals discovered in production facilities or the workplace.

Health conditions

The chance of congenital abnormalities in the fetus can rise as a result of some chronic conditions. Diabetes, thyroid issues, and autoimmune illnesses like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis are a few examples.

The medication used to treat these disorders or the fact that these conditions are not adequately controlled usually causes an elevated risk for teratogenic exposure.

The preexisting problems you have and the medications you take to address them should be discussed with your healthcare professional. During your pregnancy, you might need to change how your chronic medical condition is treated.

When is teratogen exposure the worst during pregnancy?

No matter where in the pregnancy you are, exposure to teratogens is dangerous. The first eight weeks of pregnancy are when the risk is slightly higher.

This is because the fetus is growing and developing numerous organs and systems, which increases its sensitivity to teratogens’ damaging effects. Teratogens can affect the developing embryo as early as two weeks after conception, according to studies (when the sperm fertilizes an egg).

For instance, before the fifth week of pregnancy, neural tube abnormalities (NTDs) manifest. The brain and spine are created via the neural tube. When the neural tube doesn’t correctly close, NTDs happen.

Some birth defects teratogens cause

Several known congenital illnesses are caused by teratogens. A few of the more typical anomalies include:

• Spinal cord or brain conditions such as anencephaly.

• Malformations of the body or its structure, such as tiny bones or missing body components.

• A lip- and palate cleft.

• Cognitive dysfunction or neurological problems.

• Heart or cardiovascular conditions.

Some steps to avoid teratogens during pregnancy

If at all possible, plan your pregnancy to avoid teratogens. Preparing for pregnancy enables you to adjust your lifestyle, such as giving up smoking, and managing chronic medical conditions.

This isn’t always doable, though. Once you get pregnant, you can take the following steps to reduce your risk of teratogen exposure:

• Discuss any drugs you are taking with your healthcare physician.

• Refrain from using tobacco, alcohol, and recreational drugs.

• Before taking any dietary supplements, medicines, or prescription drugs, consult your doctor.

• Refrain from sweeping litter boxes.

• Steer clear of saunas, hot tubs, and other activities that boost your body’s temperature.

• Cut out from your diet any seafood high in mercury, such as tuna, swordfish, and others.

• Speak to your manager or human resources about dangerous chemicals at work.

. Throughout pregnancy, it’s crucial to have frank conversations with your obstetrician. Being honest about using drugs or alcohol falls under this category. They are there to ensure the safety and well-being of your pregnancy. Never be reluctant to speak with your doctor before using any medications or dietary supplements. Being extremely careful is preferable when pregnant.

Healthy Decision-Making to Avoid Birth Defects

– We are aware that not all birth abnormalities are avoidable. Yet we also know that by taking care of their health issues and establishing good habits both before and throughout pregnancy, women can improve their odds of having a healthy baby.

This article exhorts everyone who is pregnant or may become pregnant to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Read another research article about childhood sexual trauma at https://journals-times.com/2023/03/29/a-talk-about-childhood-sexual-trauma/

  • Plan forward.
  • Prior to being pregnant, get as healthy as you can.
  • Consume 400 mcg of folic acid each day.
  • Beware of dangerous substances
  • Refrain from using tobacco and alcohol.
  • Watch out for hazardous exposures at work and at home.
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle o Consume a diet rich in lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Engage in some exercise.
  • Strive to control medical disorders like diabetes.
  • Consult with your healthcare provider o Schedule a checkup.
  • Discuss all prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
  • Speak about the medical history of your family.

Check out the effects of teratogens on prenatal development slide at https://prezi.com/tbjaqs2vnmkf/effects-of-teratogens-on-prenatal-development/

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