A teratogen is an agent that can cause a birth defect. There are many different sources of teratogens which pregnant mothers need to be aware of, and should review with their doctors. According to Healthline.com, about four to five percent of birth defects are caused by teratogen exposure.
Teratogens are believed to mostly affect a fetus within 10-14 days after conception. The ability of a teratogen to cause harm to a baby also depends on what part of the anatomy, such as a neural tube, is affected. Damage to the neural tube usually occurs during the first month. The central nervous system can be affected during the entire length of the pregnancy.
In general, pregnant mother should avoid alcohol, excess heat, and herbal treatments to reduce the risks of catastrophic injuries to their child. A parent’s exposure to certain toxins or chemicals can lead to birth defects. Some infections such as rubella, chickenpox, and cytomegalovirus (CMV) can affect the baby, even if the mother is immune to those diseases.
Other known teratogens that pregnant mothers should speak with their physicians about include:
- ACE inhibitors such as Prinivil and Zestril
- Androgens and progestins
- Coumadin (warfarin)
- Radioactive iodine
Your OB/GYN should provide expectant mothers with a full list of known teratogens. The doctor should review when a patient should balance the risk of use of the agent with other more dangerous risks.
Testing to ensure the safety of your baby
Your doctors should order blood work if there are any known exposures or concerns about exposures. Geneticists are trained to analyze how teratogens affect fetuses, and so genetic testing may be necessary. Tests that can help determine the presence of teratogens include:
- Ultrasound. These tests produce pictures of the child in utero.
- Amniocentesis. This procedure extracts a sample of the amniotic fluid. This test is normally conducted after the infant reaches the 15th week of pregnancy.
- Cordocentesis. This procedure extracts a blood sample from the umbilical cord. It’s typically done 18 weeks after conception.
- Chorionic villus sample. This test examines tissue that is taken from the fetal sac.
Doctors should monitor pregnant mothers for teratogens during the full pregnancy.
At Plattner Verderame, P.C., we understand how devastating it is for parents to learn their newborn has a birth defect. Our Phoenix birth injury lawyers help newborns with birth disorders hold wrongdoers liable for medical malpractice. To schedule a free appointment to discuss your child’s catastrophic injury claim, please phone us at 602-266-2002 or fill out our contact form.
I have been active in leadership in the Arizona Association for Justice (lawyers who represent injured folks, and formerly known as the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association) since 1985. I served as President in 1991. I was an active participant in battles to protect the Arizona Constitution from the insurance industry and big business interests in 1986, 1990 and 1994.
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