Teratogens and Birth Defects

How often have you picked up a beauty product or a chemical and glanced at the warning on the back? Have you noticed how many warn against the use of the product if you are pregnant? Perhaps you have become numb to this warning after all, it appears as thought it is printed on pretty much everything and anything that helps you to clean your house, do away with pimples, fuel your car, and make your lawn nice and green. Yet disregarding or downplaying the warnings may have fatal consequences to your unborn child.

These warnings printed on the labels of a host of substances point to the presence of teratogens, which are little more than substances or combinations thereof that have been connected with having an immediate and usually irreversible effect on developing human life.

Absorption in your Body

There is no uniform working mode to teratogens since they are so different from one another. Some are absorbed by your skin during contact. This can occur accidentally, if something splashes on your skin or if you touch a substance, or on purpose, such as when you apply a cream.

Others may be ingested accidentally or enter your system via the mucous membranes of the mouth or nose when inhaled. Still others may be ingested unknowingly or purposefully, such as may be the case with medication.

The list of teratogens is long and by no means all encompassing. Some are known to all and common sense will alert you to their presence; alcohol and illicit drugs are of course at the top of the list. The ill effects of these substances on the developing fetus are well documented.

X-Rays and RX

Other teratogens include radiation, thus the warning against having dental x-rays taken during pregnancy, prescription drugs, lithium and accutane are most vociferous in their warnings against ingestion during pregnancy, and even substances created within the mothers body during illness, such as is the case during German measles, syphilis, and herpes.

You have the ability to lower the risk of birth defects by heeding teratogen warnings found on household chemicals, prescriptions, beauty products, and even food as well as nutritional supplements. Failure to pay attention to these warnings, on the other hand, may lead to a host of birth defects, such as cleft palate, fetal alcohol syndrome, club foot, anencephaly, missing limbs, or fetal death.

Thalidomide

Perhaps the most well documented disaster of a teratogen unwittingly ingested by pregnant women is the thalidomide catastrophe that took place in the 1960s and was narrowly avoided in the United States by Frances Kelsey who would not bow to pressure to rush through this lucrative drug which promised to make rich the companies that would produce and sell it.

Tens of thousands of children were born with missing limbs, deformities, and superfluous appendages because of the teratogen that is contained in the medication. Thus, if you are pregnant, be wise before you ingest any substance, touch it, handle it in any way, or even smell it! An inconvenience today, it will be forgotten tomorrow when you cradle your healthy newborn!