The saga of human life begins with conception. The process of development completes after a period of 9 months of development & single fertilized cell divides into 800 billion cells. Birth of a newborn is always a mixture of pleasure and anxiety for parents and relatives. It is a joyous moment for every parent especially, when they see a bundle of joys born with the wonderful capacities. It is the end of long journey of nine months for both parents and newborn.
Problems Associated With Pregnancy
It is an inability to conceive after 12 to 18 months of trying. The chances of infertility are more with elder couples. The causes of infertility among men are:
- Less sperms are produced.
- Use of illicit drugs or smoking.
- Previous problem of sexually transmitted diseases.
The causes of infertility among women are.
- Failure to release on egg through ovulation, this may happen due to hormonal imbalance or damaged fallopian tubes or uterus.
- Use or abuse of drugs or alcohol.
The possible solutions to the problems of infertility are:
- Artificial insemination – This is a procedure in when men’s sperm is directly placed in the vagina of woman. Sometimes donor is anonymous as it may be taken from sperm banks or the husband.
- In vitro fertilization (IVF) – In this case fertilization takes places out of women body. Women’s egg is then transferred to women’s uterus.
The other two similar procedures are gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) and zygote intrafallopien transfer (ZIFT).
In Gamete intrafallopian tube transfer egg and sperm are transplanted in mother‘s uterus. In the zygote, intrafallopien tube transfer, fertilized egg is directly transferred to mother‘s uterus.
Surrogate motherhood is another very rarely used option. The surrogate mother is artificially inseminated by biological father, mother brings up the child, hands over to the father and gives up all the rights over the child.
IVF technique is more successful with younger women as compared with the older women. It is also possible for parents to choose the sex of the baby. One such technique is where sperms carrying X and Y chromosomes are separated and required type of sperm is implanted in mother’s uterus.
Second technique of having desired sexed baby, is eggs are removed from mother‘s body and they are fertilised with sperms through invitro fertilization. Three days after embryos are tested in the laboratory to determine their sex.
The desired sex embryo is implanted in the uterus of mother. Surrogate motherhood is surrounded by many ethical moral and legal issues. Many a times rights of surrogate mother, mother father and child are in conflict with each other. Similarly, termination of embryo and the basis of sex are also surrounded by ethical and moral questions. This imbalance is mainly caused by sex determination tests and termination of female embryo.
2) Miscarriage and abortion:
Miscarriage is a spontaneous abortion, in which uterus expels the embryo. Most of the time in such cases mother is not aware of the pregnancy. Hence, she may not take the required precautions. Some genetic abnormality is associated with miscarriages that take place in the earlier months of pregnancy.
Abortion is a process in which mother deliberately terminates the pregnancy. Once again abortion involves many religions, ethical and moral issues. In most cases, women experience a combination of relief with guilt.
Factors Influencing Parental Environment
Most of the problems during prenatal period are caused by teratogenic agents. A teratogen is an environmental agent such as drug, medicine or virus that produces birth defect in the developing embryo. The influence of above factors depend on what time these agents must have occurred or influenced the prenatal environment. The teratogenic factors will have maximum influence during
the earlier months of pregnancy. Similarly, sensitivity to particular teratogenic agent is also related to cultural and social background. Brain is susceptible to teratogenic agents during first 15 to 25 days after conception whereas heart is more susceptible during 20 to 49 days after conception.
i) Mother’s diet:
It is a primary concern of all the developing and underdeveloped nations. In our country male members are given top priority, many a times pregnant mother is ignored. Now Central government has launched a mass scale awareness programme for giving nutrient food to expectant mothers.
Mother who eats nutrient food during pregnancy is less likely to have complications during pregnancy. She is more likely to have healthy baby and easy labour. Doctors generally prescribe the dietary supplements to counteract the effect of poor diet. Research shows that babies who are malnourished as fetus, but when enriched environment can overcome the effects of early malnutrition. In reality, it has become possible for malnourished fetus to have enriched environment after birth.
ii) Mother’s age:
Today, women seek career advancement or choose to continue their education as a result they get married much later. Since 1970s number of women who become mothers during 30s 40s have increased. Women who give birth to child after 30’s are at greater risks for variety of problems associated with pregnancy and child birth. These mothers are more likely to give birth prematurely and they are more likely to have babies with low birth weight. This occurs because of decline in the condition of women’s eggs. After the age of 42, the eggs of women do not continue to remain
normal. Those women who become mothers after 40 are more likely to give birth to a baby with Down’s syndrome or mental retardation. The chances of having baby with Down’s syndrome or mentally retarded baby increase with advancing years of pregnancy.
Studies show that if a mother has not experienced any major health problem till 40 years, she is not likely to have prenatal problems. Women, who become mothers during adolescence, are also likely to give birth to premature babies. Teenage mothers very often may not get social support as a result they do not receive good prenatal care. The social situations such as poverty and lack of parental involvement after birth may also be responsible for high mortality ratio of infants especially among teenage mothers.
iii) Mother’s health:
If mother develops any major health problem during pregnancy it can have devastating effect on the developing embryo. Some of the conditions that can create the maximum damage to embryo are given below:-
- Onset of Rubella or German measles during 11th week of pregnancy can cause blindness deafness and heart defects in the baby. But in later stages of pregnancy result may have less serious effects.
- Chicken pox may produce birth defect. Mumps during pregnancy may lead to miscarriage.
- Sexually transmitted diseases of mother are transmitted to fetus and baby will be born with disease. Another STD like gonorrhea is directly transmitted to baby as it passes through birth canal at the time of birth.
- Mothers who are carriers of HIV, Human Immunodeficiency virus or those who have AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) can easily infect their fetus through the blood that reaches the placenta. But if mothers are treated with AZT drug during pregnancy less than 5% infants are born with the disease.
- Mother’s use of drugs: – Medicines consumed by mother during 9 months of pregnancy can have disastrous effect on the unborn baby. Medicines given for ordinary ailments can have injurious consequences. e.g. Aspirin taken for headache can lead to fetal bleeding and impairment of growth of unborn embryo. Some of the drugs taken by mother may not show their effects immediately, the effects may be seen several years later.
- In 1970’s artificial hormones DES (diethylstilbestrol) was prescribed to prevent miscarriage later on it was found that the daughters of mothers who look DES had much higher chance of developing a rare form of virginal cancer and had more difficulties during pregnancies. Sons of mothers who had taken DES hormones had more chances of reproductive difficulties (Adams Hillard 2005).
- Consumption of birth control pills due to lack of awareness of pregnancy or the part of mother leads to fetal damage. If mother consumes marijuana during pregnancy, it can restrict oxygen that reaches fetus. Infants of such mothers are irritable, nervous and are easily disturbed.
- These children at the age of 10, show learning and memory deficit. Cocaine used by mother during pregnancy can constrict the arteries leading to fetus, reducing the blood flow and oxygen to fetus causing other to fetal disabilities. Children of such mother are shorter they many have less weight and serious respiratory problems. These children may be born addicted to cocaine and may show withdrawal symptoms. It is difficult to isolate the effects of cocaine in the case of mothers who are addicted to cocaine. Usually their children are more likely to have poor prenatal and postnatal care. Such mothers are required to stop use of cocaine and their babies need improved postnatal case.
- Mothers use of Alcohol and Tobacco: – Children of mothers who consume substantial amount of alcohol during pregnancy are at the risk of developing fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Child suffering from FAS, usually show mental retardation, delayed growth and facial deformities. It is possible to prevent FAS. Even those mothers who consume alcohol in smaller quantities are more likely to give birth to children who may show effects of fetal alcohol effects. Doctors usually advice pregnant mothers to stop alcohol completely. Smoking during pregnancy is equally injurious to fetus, nicotine and other toxins reduce the respiratory rate of the fetus. Smoking mothers have higher chance of miscarriages and fetal death during pregnancy.
- Father’s effect on prenatal development : The father too can transmit environmentally caused defects like exposure to marijuana, tobacco smoke and large amounts of alcohol and radiation. Certain pesticides may result in production of abnormal sperms. Studies have shown that there is relationship between nervous system tumors in children and occupation of father, who works as auto mechanic, worker in mines, printers etc. In addition workplace toxins such as mercury may bind to sperm and cause birth defect. Those fathers who are abusive towards mothers during pregnancy may actually harm to baby by producing stressful environment. Incidences of mothers facing abuses during pregnancy are not very uncommon.