What Factors Affect Fetal Development?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 28 March 2020
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Many factors effect fetal development, but some key factors are diet, the mother’s age, and whether the mother smokes or consumes alcohol. It is necessary for a pregnant woman to consume high enough quantities of foods that are rich in certain vitamins and nutrients during fetal development in order to give birth to a healthy baby. In addition, a pregnant mother consuming alcohol or smoking can result in severe birth defects, low weight, or mental retardation.

Foods consumed by the mother during pregnancy are linked to how successfully fetal development and the birth of a healthy child progresses. In order for both the mother and fetus to have healthy teeth and bones throughout pregnancy, it is important for the mother to consume high-calcium foods. Consuming appropriate quantities of vitamins and nutrients such as folic acid, vitamin B, and vitamin D is especially important for pregnant mothers. Without enough folic acid and vitamin B during fetal development, babies can be born with serious brain and spinal cord abnormalities. Improper nutrition during fetal development does not only hurt the fetus, but a pregnant woman’s own body will often suffer because vitamins and nutrients can be robbed from her and transferred to the child.


A pregnant woman who is older than 30 years old is at risk for additional problems regarding fetal health as well as additional risks to her own health. For example, a baby is more than 10 times as likely to be born with Down’s syndrome if his or her mother is older than 40. Another risk to fetuses developing in a woman more than age 30 is that they are more likely to die due to a miscarriage.

Mothers who smoke or are around chemicals that result from smoking can result in serious negative consequences during and after fetal development. Low birth weight, higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and a myriad of other health problems can arise in babies who experience secondhand smoke during fetal development. Birth defects such as a cleft lip have also been linked to having a mother who smoked during pregnancy.

Alcohol is another substance that can cause severe harm to fetuses if the mother consumes it. For instance, if a mother consumes alcohol while she is pregnant, it can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome. If a child has fetal alcohol syndrome, he or she experiences problems such as mental retardation, inhibited growth, as well as a myriad of other physical and mental defects.


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