Inherited Versus Environmental Prenatal Factors

Table of Contents

Inherited factors are nurture factors that originate from the genes and are transferred to the unborn baby through the mother. The transmission of hereditary factors begins at conception and continues to develop in the child. The inheritance traits interact with environmental factors to bring them out (Gwin & Price, 2007). The physical traits of an individual are mostly influenced by hereditary factors.

They also affect the intellectual characteristics and personality of an individual. Environmental factors that affect child development during the prenatal stage are those factors that act independently and are acquired from the environment, which is the mother’s womb. The prenatal environmental factors result from the mother’s use of drugs, illness, emotional status, nutrition, and birth complications. They result from the fetus’s exposure to diversities in the uterus during the critical periods of development. Such exposure can cause physiological and metabolic changes, which can affect later developments (Gwin & Price, 2007).

Prenatal Environmental Influences

Most of the prenatal risk factors that affect fetus development in the uterus arise from maternal characteristics. After conception, the zygote begins to undergo cell division as cells develop into various body organs, such as the brain, heart, lungs, and skeleton system, among many others. The environmental factors (teratogens) that influence prenatal growth and development include the mother’s radioactivity, stress, hormones, and chemicals that affect the mother’s environment. The mother’s use or abuse of drugs and the inability to filtrate disease viruses also affect prenatal development.

Environmental factors may cause permanent damage to the development of any organ that is affected during the critical stage of development of the fetus (Gwin, & Price, 2007). Environmental influence on the fetus during the first three months of development damages the basic structures of the organs, especially the nervous system. Environmental influences may cause the irreparable malformation of the body organs (Gwin & Price, 2007).


Abuse of both pharmaceutical drugs and illegal substances may cause congenital abnormality. The degree of the deformities depends on the level of the mother’s exposure to the chemical and the fetus stage of the development, and the duration of exposure. The mother’s exposure to narcotics, such as heroine or morphine, may cause the mother to give birth to an addicted baby. Cigarette smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriages and bleeding during pregnancy. Cigarette smoking leads to low birth weight and may even lead to the death of the fetus or, worse still, cause the death of the newborns.

Such babies are born prematurely and therefore face other health problems associated with premature births. Prenatal smoking is likely to increase the degree of antisocial behavior in childhood and achievement impairments in adulthood. The reduction in birth weight results from nicotine toxicity and its pharmacological effects, which cause carbon monoxide exposure and vasoconstriction to the fetus. Alcohol drinking during pregnancy may cause miscarriages, brain damage, heart defects, as well as permanent growth retardation. It is also likely to cause fetal alcohol syndrome in children, which is likely to negatively impact the child’s learning ability. Such children become hyperactive and experience learning disabilities (Gwin & Price, 2007).

The Mother’s Illness

When the mother’s placenta cannot filter out viruses, the mother is likely to transmit viruses that contain diseases such as malaria, STDs, and many other venereal diseases. If the mother contracts viruses such as rubella during the first three months of fetus development, the fetus is likely to develop heart diseases and cataracts; the child may suffer mental retardation and deafness. Viruses may cause the mother to give birth to a premature baby who also has low birth weight and anoxia condition, which results in cerebral palsy, epilepsy, behavior disorders, and a mental deficiency (Gwin & Price, 2007).

The Age of the Mother

Mothers above the age of 35 and teenage mothers risk miscarriages and give birth to premature babies. Such children are also likely to experience birth defects (Gwin & Price, 2007).

The mother’s nutrition and physical condition

The mothers’ diet affects the fetus’s growth and development as well as that of the child. Mothers who adhere to the fetus’s nutritional needs during pregnancy are likely to give birth to babies of average or above-average birth weights. Such babies have fewer chances of being affected by diseases such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and colds during the infancy period. Poor diet during pregnancy may lead to a child suffering from anemia, mental retardation, and poor bone formation. Such children also have low birth weights (Gwin & Price, 2007).

Reference List

Gwin, J. F, & Price, D. L. (2007). Pediatric nursing: An introductory text. London: Elsevier Inc.

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