A teratogen is a term that refers to a number of harmful substances that interfere with healthy prenatal development, thus causing abnormalities and diverse birth defects. Before beginning this course, I did not know a lot about teratogens and would not be able to name all classes of substances that can cause abnormalities by affecting the growing fetus. More specifically, I understood the cause-effect relationships between pregnant women’s pernicious habits, such as smoking, alcohol abuse, and illicit drug use, and the risks of congenital disorders. However, I was not aware of the term referring to these and similar substances collectively.
I have learned multiple new details about teratogens due to the readings and the video. Some specific takeaways include the fact that teratogens produce toxic effects that might affect both the physiological and cognitive development of the child (SkiFreeSkiOften, 2012). Aside from that, I was surprised to learn that alcohol, one of the most common teratogens, can lead to the accumulation of ethanol in the fetus in case of the mother’s regular drinking. As I learned, this situation causes fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) that can be recognized based on the child’s unusual facial features and behavioral patterns (SkiFreeSkiOften, 2012). Finally, another critical takeaway from the course materials is that expectant fathers’ use of teratogens during their partners’ pregnancy can be as harmful as maternal first-hand exposure to harmful substances.
There are different ways to apply this knowledge when working with young children. An understanding of the symptoms of FASD might be helpful when encountering a young child who experiences certain learning or behavioral difficulties but does not have a diagnosis. FASD is often missed in newborns, and only the children with extremely high prenatal exposure to ethanol have well-manifested physical symptoms helping clinicians to diagnose the condition right after birth (Denny et al., 2017). Abnormal symptoms often become more obvious as the newborn grows. Thus, as an early education professional, I would be able to spot some warning signs and encourage the child’s parents to undergo developmental screening tests. Therefore, the learned information about teratogens might be helpful in getting at the root cause of students’ learning difficulties and delinquent behaviors in the classroom.
Denny, L., Coles, S., & Blitz, R. (2017). Fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. American Family Physician, 96(8), 515-522. Web.
SkiFreeSkiOften. (2012). Teratogens [Video]. YouTube. Web.