Teratogens and your unborn baby

Teratogens is the Greek word for “monster forming.” They can be found in many things we interact with each day. Teratogens are any type of drug, chemical or some infections that will cause an embryo to develop abnormally. Since there are so many things that are considered teratogens, the only way to protect your unborn child is to avoid them all together.

Experts have had a hard time pinpointing when, where and who these teratogens will affect. Each one has a different effect on the pregnant woman before and after pregnancy. Some of them will also only have an effect on an unborn embryo at certain times during the pregnancy. Teratogens are very hard to predict and even harder to manage which one will cause the most damage.

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Most common teratogens

Your doctor can advise you on which teratogens are the most important for you to avoid. In general most doctors will tell you to avoid some of the following things:

  1. Varicella Virus also known as Chicken Pox. This is a very common air borne disease that is very easy to catch when you get close to anyone who is infected. The effects to an unborn baby can be severe. The effects can be as severe as mental retardation, blindness, a small head and low birth weight.
  2. Tobacco. Either through direct contact or second-hand smoke, it will have more effect on your placenta then directly on the embryo. It can cause developmental issue to your placenta which in turn will cause problems with your fetus. Some effects can include heart defects and low birth weight. Babies can also develop problems from second-hand smoke such as asthma, respiratory infections and have a higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
  3. Alcohol. The side effects of alcohol to an unborn child can range from something as simple as low birth weight to a more severe problem like Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. This is a permanent mental condition that will affect your child through out their entire life.


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Other teratogens

Not all teratogens we encounter will have effects on unborn embryos. There are several that have been found to have no effect at all. Since it is hard to know exactly how teratogens will effect a certain individual, it is best to discuss any concerns with your doctor and follow their advice.

Some of the teratogens that do not cause such severe side effects, but should still be avoided are:

  1. Herbal treatments should always be discussed with your doctor before using. There may be things you are unaware of that will affect you.
  2. Excessive heat can cause dehydration to both you and your unborn baby. Your womb is nothing but fluid and if you become dehydrated your body will start pulling fluid from anywhere it has to.
  3. Over-the-counter medicines should be discussed with your doctor before taking. Many over-the-counter drugs can contain chemicals that are labeled as teratogens.

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The best advice anyone can give you concerning teratogens is, if you are not sure of it then avoid it. Discuss any problems that seem different with your doctor.

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