A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Teratogens and Maternal Behaviors/Characteristics

By Daniel Kurland
April 10, 2011
Psych 231
Dr. ***

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is probably the most unfortunate thing a mother can do to harm an embryo (weeks 3-8), since the embryonic period is such a “critical period for physical structure and form.” (Berger, 99) Genetic factors affect the embryo’s sensitivity to alcohol, and not all embryos display obvious defects after exposure to alcohol. (Berger, 102) However, the diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), where babies suffer from facial deformities, mental retardation, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, is now generally, though not universally, accepted: (Berger, 102)

“Surveys and longitudinal studies have confirmed a correlation between drinking by a pregnant woman and damage to the fetus.” (Berger, 102)

Sadly, mothers who drink excessive amounts of alcohol are more likely to smoke tobacco and use marijuana than others. (Berger, 99) The “interaction effect” of the three used together “intensifies the impact” of each of these teratogens, which are known to cross the placenta and “slow fetal growth.” (Berger, 99 and 114)

            Preventing prenatal alcohol exposure is far more complex than combating other known teratogens such as a diet low in folic acid or the prenatal transmission of the HIV virus. Since 1996, a Federal mandate requiring the folic acid fortification of common foods has led to a sharp drop in the number of neural tube defects. (Berger, 100) Meanwhile, prenatal diagnostic tests routinely lead to antiviral drug therapies. Thus, the prenatal transmission of the HIV virus has been virtually eliminated in the US. (Berger, 105)  Heavy alcohol consumption occurs far less often during planned pregnancies under the auspices of marriage, than it does during unplanned pregnancies. (Berger, 117) Since high risk pregnancies carry such a high social cost, unplanned pregnancies must be prevented.

Berger, K. S. (2008). The developing person through the lifespan. New York: Worth.