Maternal Health and Nutrition
An expectant mother has many things to worry about while her child is solely dependent on her. A fetus has no other way of maintaining its health than by the attentive care of its mother. Poor maternal health and nutrition are associated with a range of complications, including low birth weight and nutritional deficiencies.
When people think of a pregnant woman, one of the first things to come to mind is the outrageous cravings they've all heard tell of. While these cravings may seem bizarre, such as a craving for pickles and ice cream, they may reflect the nutritional needs of the pregnant mother. While supporting herself and her baby, an expectant mother has to balance the nutritional needs of both. A mother who has a bad diet will develop a placenta that is not up to par. An undernourished placenta cannot perform its transportation of nutrients as well as a well-nourished one, thereby leaving the fetus of an undernourished woman in want of nutrients and oxygen.
A pregnant woman should not be scared of gaining weight while carrying. The average and expected weight gain for an expecting mother of a normal weight is from twenty-five to thirty pounds. Research suggests that obese women need to gain between fifteen and twenty-five pounds, while underweight women may need to gain thirty-five pounds or more depending upon how underweight they are. Although this seems like a lot of weight, keep in mind that the increase in weight includes not only the baby but also the increase in breast size, the placenta, amniotic fluid, enlarged uterus, increased blood volume, stored fats, and water retention.
Maternal Diseases and Drug Use
The placenta carries the nutrients and wastes to and from the body of the baby and the mother. Any harmful things that the mother ingests are transported into the baby through the blood. Although the placenta has the ability to screen and block certain harmful substances from entering the unborn baby's blood, it allows some harmful substances to slip by unnoticed.
Teratogens are harmful agents, particularly drugs and viruses, that the placenta allows to pass through. Many people know that an expectant mother with the AIDS virus can pass the virus on to her unborn child during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, or through breastfeeding. The risk of transmission can be reduced significantly if the mother is given antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and if the baby is fed formula rather than breast milk.
Women smokers also have a great impact on their baby's health. The baby receives the nicotine that the mother brings into her system. This substance causes the baby to be unable to receive as many nutrients and thereby causes unhealthy weight loss. Very heavy smoking may also cause brain defects in the fetus.
The use of psychoactive drugs has also been linked to a number of birth complication, including low birth weight, premature labor, and long-term brain deficits in children. If the mother happens to be addicted to heroin, the baby will also receive her frequent heroin doses during gestation, and in turn, be born a heroin addict.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
One of the most common and notorious problems caused by a mother's insufficient monitoring of what enters her body is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). While some people have suggested that small amounts of alcohol will not harm the fetus, no amount of alcohol during pregnancy has been proven safe. Even moderate drinking can affect a fetal brain. When alcohol enters the bloodstream of the expectant mother, it depresses both the mother's and the child's central nervous system. Fetal alcohol syndrome causes physical and cognitive abnormalities in children. Some of the more serious results of fetal alcohol syndrome in babies include the formation of small and disproportional heads and brain abnormalities. Fetal alcohol syndrome is the leading cause of mental retardation in children.