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The Adverse Effect Of Prenatal Maternal Health On A Baby’s Health

1640 words - 7 pages

The miracle of birth is a true phenomenon of nature but with it comes considerable responsibility. A mother must keep herself at optimal health to prevent complications during birth and to ensure the best health for the baby postnatal. While much of this medical advice is in the mother and child’s best interest, there are expecting mothers who refuse to follow these precautions and partake in various activities that put the life of their babies in imminent danger. Therefore, when a mother refuses to put the well-being of her child before her destructive desires, the government must hold her legally accountable for the implications of her actions on her child’s well-being. This is because seemingly insignificant bad habits or careless management of health can lead to catastrophic consequences in the developing fetus. To clarify, “legal accountability” refers to court-ordered adherence to doctor’s orders or cesarean section, if the procedure would prevent further damage of the fetus by the mother’s actions. If the mother cannot take responsibility for her actions, the government must step in to ensure health of the baby before and after birth.
One major factor that has an adverse effect on the growing fetus is improper diet. In many developed nations, obesity is an “epidemic of astronomical proportions” (CDC, 2010) that many see as a problem that affects an individual over his or her lifespan. However, according to a theory termed the “thrifty hypothesis”, a baby’s “postnatal phenotype”, such as fetal size, is influenced by the mother’s “prenatal [health] conditions” (Novak et al., 2006). In the hunter-gatherer days of Homo erectus, the mother’s health served as an indicator of food availability for the offspring; mothers who were obese during times of plenty gave birth to large babies that tended to also become obese to optimize fat storage. Although these adaptations have carried on through generations due to evolutionary fitness, our hominid culture has changed due to increased availability of food and other resources needed for survival. The reverse can also be true. If a mother chooses not to feed herself enough for various personal or social reasons, the fetus is given biological indications that food is not plentiful and thus is born smaller in size. However, in these small babies, insulin production is significantly increased to easily store fat in the “food-sparse” environment, leading them to also have a high susceptibility for obesity, termed “catch-up growth”, when food is abundant (Novak et al., 2006). This same tendency is shown in the observance of schizophrenia, where prenatal exposure to famine increases risk of schizophrenia later in life (St. Clair et al., 2005). Overall, this recently-garnered scientific data drives home the point that diet is a factor that not only immediately affects the mother but also has far-reaching negative effects on her offspring that can be avoided by governmental intervention.
While food is a daily...

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