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Examine and discuss the effects of teratogens on the development of the embryo and foetus. Critically discuss why it is difficult to determine the effects of some of these agents, with particular reference to psychological theory and research.
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Teratogens refer to the production of defects in the embryo or foetus. The agent that is responsible for producing such a defect is known as a teratogen agent. The term teratogen is used in the perspective of causing anatomical defects in an embryo that was previously differentiating normally (Briggs, Freeman, & Yaffe, 2012). Note that teratogen does not cause all deformities found in the embryo. However, Teratogens are substances that might produce both physical and functional defects in the embryo or foetus of a human after a woman who is pregnant is exposed to the element. There are a variety of ways that exposure to teratogen affects the foetus or the embryo. Some of the factors that determine the ways the foetus will be affected are; the duration of the exposure, the amount of the teratogen substance and the stage of the development of the embryo or foetus during the time of the exposure. The essay will discuss the effects of teratogens on the development of the embryo and foetus. It will further explain why it is hard to determine the consequences of some of these agents, with particular reference to psychological theory and research.
When exposed to teratogen substances, there are a variety of ways that this can affect the embryo or the foetus. Some of the ways that a person can be affected are by causing malfunction complication in the behaviour or the emotional development of the child and also decreasing intellectual content (IQ) in the child. On the same note, the effects of the teratogens can affect pregnancies and also cause complications like preterm labour, having spontaneous abortions, or even having miscarriages (Ornoy, 2009). There are four types of teratogens which are physical agents, metabolic condition, infection, and drugs and chemicals. There are numerous potential teratogens; however those which have been proven to have teratogen effects are a few. It is not easy for scientists to be certain about the most assumed teratogen agent as numerous researches will have to be done. The effects of teratogen substances can cause birth defects. In fact, study shows that teratogen causes 7% of all birth defects (Behnke et, al 2013). It is said that exposure to teratogen agents can affect the development of the foetus as early as ten days after conception.
The effect of teratogen depends on the ability of the agent to cross to the placenta. There are some substances which due to having a high molecular weight cannot be able to cross the placenta and thus they are not teratogen in nature. However, there are those substances that are known to cause effects to human beings. Exposure to nicotine leads to fatal growth being affected (Gilbert, 2009). It has been established that smoking causes intrauterine restrictions of growth and heavy smokers are likely to have a premature delivery. When nicotine gets into the blood of a woman who is expectant, it constricts the uterine blood vessels and this, in turn, causes a decrease in uterine blood flow, thus reducing the supply of both oxygen and nutrients that are available for the embryo. The effect causes an adverse effect on the mental development of the embryo. The other drug that is known to cause teratogen is alcohol, which is the most abused drug by women who are child bearing (Blackburn, 2014). The infants born to parents who abuse alcohol demonstrate both prenatal and postnatal deficiency of growth; they have mental retardation, as well as other malformations. Binge drinking is also likely to have harmful effects on embryonic brain development and gestation.
Medication like the antibiotics and antidepressants, are also other agents that are known to have teratogens effects. Note that it is safe to consume most antibiotic when one is expectant, but on the same note, there are some exceptions. Antibiotic like the Aminoglycosides which is only prescribed in extreme cases might cause up to 2% increased risk for having hearing impairment. Tetracycline and Doxycycline if used in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy can lead to fatal growth of bone and is not recommended to be used when one is expectant or breastfeeding (Behnke et, al 2013). The antidepressant on the other hand should be used as little as possible as it might cause the baby showing withdrawal symptoms at birth that is the child might appear as being irritable with breathing complications and is difficult to be soothed. In worst case scenarios there can be premature delivery.
There are some medications and drugs that are extremely dangerous like the Accutane, which is a retinoic acid that is given in form of a pill by prescription for severe acne. According to (Feldkamp et, al 2010) the medication is said to be extremely dangerous as the 25-39% of infants exposed to the drug during the first trimester will exhibits signs of abnormality, hydrocephalus, brain defects, face and ear abnormities, defects of the heart and limb, mental retardation, and chronic skin lesion. Cocaine usage during pregnancy can lead to there being an increase not only of having miscarriages but also a premature detachment of the placenta, brain damage, small head, low birth weight baby, defects of the heart and infant withdrawal.
According to psychological theory and research theories and studies, physical, mental and social changes take place throughout the lifespan of an individual. These factors are based on nature, nurture and the contact between our genetic inheritance and our experiences. The theory states that the life cycle starts from conception. That is when the organs of the body start to form. For this reason, mothers should be careful on things that they eat, drink or even the pressure that they might be feeling as this will affect the child’s development and growth.
Teratogens which are harmful agents can pass through the placenta and affect the embryo. It is possible that a particular birth might have its own defects through possible mechanism as well as exposure that are inclusive of medication. It is not feasible to tell the outcome that might take place during a particular pathogenic process. Outcomes might be different for different mothers who are conceiving (Feldkamp et, al 2010).Babies at birth have sensory equipment are impulses that are needed for survival. They use these when they are interacting with adults. For instance they have the ability to distinguish the smell of the mother. If the brain is not well developed due to any teratogen agent, then the child will lack these skills.
In conclusion, drugs that cause defects are known a strategic drug. Medical science cannot always say how the exposure to these agents will affect the foetus. It could be dangerous for a woman who is pregnant to stop taking prescription medication if she becomes ill or has a medical condition. Without getting treatment, the welfare of both the mother and the unborn child will be at risk. It is this type of situation that makes both the doctor and the parent wonder on how they should handle it. In as much as medication can be dangerous, it might also be necessary at that particular moment. To reduce the risks that are brought by these agents, mothers who are expectant should avoid using illicit drugs. On the other hand, doctors should be careful with the prescriptions that the recommend so as to ensure that the child has been exposed to as minimal risk as possible.
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