Factors That Effect the Development of a Baby

Pregnant women should eat healthy foods and take prenatal vitamins.
Pregnant women should eat healthy foods and take prenatal vitamins. (Image: pregnant #3 image by Adam Borkowski from Fotolia.com)

When you become pregnant, you are no longer the only person that is affected by your health, the food you eat, your environment and your mental state. A tiny developing fetus is affected by the choices you make and even by some things you may not be able to control. To limit the risk that your baby will experience adverse effects in his development, become familiar with factors that harm the baby's development and avoid them, if possible.

Prenatal Care

Whether you choose to see a doctor or a midwife, prenatal care is essential to a healthy pregnancy. During these visits, blood and urine tests will be given to check for bacteria, protein levels, sugar levels, anemia and other diseases. If anything is amiss, your doctor or midwife can advise you how to stay healthy. You will probably be prescribed a prenatal vitamin. Your weight will be monitored along with the growth of your baby.

Nutrition and Exercise

Proper nutrition is important because your unborn baby gets all her nutrients from what mom eats. A diet that is high in folic acid is important because lack of folic acid may cause birth defects. Avoid undercooked fish, meats and eggs, and soft unpasteurized cheeses because these foods can harbor bacteria that can harm your baby. Eating a balanced diet is the best thing you can do to provide nutrients for your baby. Moderate exercise increases oxygen flow to the fetus, but avoid over exerting yourself as this could be dangerous.

Over-the-Counter Medications

Consult your doctor or midwife before taking any medications. Even seemingly harmless over-the-counter pills may cause birth defects in your unborn baby. Be especially cautious in the the first trimester.


Alcohol passes through the placenta to your baby. No amount of alcohol during pregnancy is proven to be safe. Excessive drinking can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, a condition that delays physical growth and causes cognitive delays. Drinking during pregnancy can also lead to low birth weight and abnormal behavior such as hyperactivity in babies.


Chemicals in cigarettes pass from the mother's bloodstream to the fetus. Nicotine is proven to cause low birth weight, birth defects and lowered oxygen levels for the fetus. Smoking during pregnancy has also been linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).


Illegal substances, or street drugs are extremely dangerous for the unborn baby. Along with birth defects, the baby may be born with an addiction to the drug. Many illegal drugs affect the development of a baby's central nervous system. Prescription drugs may also harm your unborn baby. Be sure your doctor is aware of your pregnancy before prescribing any medication.

Viral and Bacterial Infections

Infections that can be passed from the mother to the fetus can cause birth defects and brain damage. Many infections can cause severe mental retardation in your baby. Because illnesses can affect your unborn baby, if you get sick while pregnant, see your physician.

Mother's Age

The age of the mother can affect the bay's development. Moms older than 35 have a higher risk of miscarriage, having a baby with Down Syndrome, and having a high-risk pregnancy. Fortunately, health care providers can monitor pregnant moms over the age of 35 more closely to be sure the pregnancy is healthy.

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