Some conditions are passed from mother to child not as a result of an infection or a genetic malfunction, but because the mother has failed to provide an optimal prebirth condition for the developing baby. The placenta, which lines the womb and serves to nourish the developing infant, can be penetrated by substances such as alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, and heroin. Also, a mother who has AIDS can pass the virus to the child during gestation.
The mother who smokes, drinks alcohol, or uses drugs while pregnant can cause developmental problems for the child. The fetus is especially susceptible to these influences during the first three months (first trimester) of pregnancy. The organs are formed and the anatomy and physiology of the infant are established during the first trimester.
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a well-recognized affliction brought about by the mother's heavy consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol consumed very early in the pregnancy can cause brain damage by interfering with the fetus' brain development. Other features of a child with FAS are wide-set eyes, flattened bridge of the nose, and slowed growth and development.
A child born of a mother addicted to drugs will also be addicted. Often the baby will exhibit signs of withdrawal, such as shaking, vomiting, and crying with pain. These children usually have a low birth weight and are slow to develop. In time, once the drug is out of his system, the child will assume a normal life pattern.
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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Categorical judgement to ChimaeraChildhood Diseases - Other Infectious Childhood Diseases, Poliomyelitis, Noncontagious Childhood Diseases, Congenital Diseases - Contagious diseases