Teratogens can be defined as those agents causing the malformation of the baby while still in the womb. This happens before birth but the effects are only seen after birth (Shepard & Lemire, 2004). The effects can be very severe or minute depending on the extent the teratogen has affected the baby. Teratogens can be easily identified in the environment in which the mother is staying but in a general population, they are hard to identify because it cannot be known clearly, what is causing the malformation of the child. There are several agents of teratogens and each has different effects on the malformation of the baby before birth.

The first agents of teratogens and they cause the same effects on the malformation of the baby are drugs, chemicals and alcohol. These are the most commonly known and they affect the babies in almost the same way. They affect the growth of the baby. This means there is intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) of the baby. In this, the body systems of the baby have a growth abnormality where they usually do not develop fully. This can affect the baby when it is born because it will not be able to function normally especially if some of organs have not developed well or they have not yet grown. If this is not prevented, it can lead to the baby’s death before and after the birth of the baby.

The other effect that is caused by drugs, chemicals and alcohol, which are agents of teratogens, is joint abnormalities (Chiras, 2010). These are either on all the joints, which are contained in the body of a child. All the joints or some of the joints may have abnormalities in their formation, which means the child will be born with a deformation of the body. This means that the child will be born as a cripple and it cannot be treated. The child will continue to grow like this in the rest of his life. Therefore, it is best for the mother of the child to avoid such agents, to protect the growth of her child.

Another agent of teratogens is radiations. These radiations are things like x-rays, radiation therapies, atomic and nuclear weapons (Cummings, 2008). There are several effects, which are brought about by these radiations, and they cause the birth defects of the child. One of the effects is that there is the general growth retardation of the babies. A good example of this is the Hiroshima nuclear bomb. The babies, who were born at that time, had stunted growth due to the radiations in which they were exposed to at that time. They tend to have short legs as compared to their upper body size.

Additionally, there are several other effects, which affect the baby due to the radiations. The eyes may be affected where certain cells may be killed by these radiations. Usually when the body is exposed to radiations, there are cells, which are usually killed (Cummings, 2008). If these cells are killed before the baby is born, chances of them forming back again are very hard therefore; they can lead to permanent effects of the body. Babies might be born when they are blind and they can never get there eyesight back.

Lastly, the other agents of teratogens, which affect the malformation of the baby, are maternal diseases. These are the diseases, which may usually affect the mother especially when she is pregnant with the baby. Viral diseases are the most harmful diseases, they affect the growth of the baby, and if the baby is severely affected by them, they can lead to death. Additionally, the medicine, which the mother might take, can be very harmful to the malformation of the baby.

In conclusion, it is worth noting that the agents can be categorized in different forms. The radiations, but not all of them, they can be categorized as environmental factors and others like alcohol can be categorized as drug abuse. On the other hand, different agents of teratogens affect the malformation of the baby differently. Additionally, the effects of the baby’s malformation depend on the degree in which the baby has been exposed to a certain agent. Therefore, mothers are advised to be very careful so that they can reduce the chances of malformation of the baby when they are pregnant.



Chiras, D. D., (2010). Environmental Science. Washington D.C., DC: Jones & Bartlett Learning

Cummings, M. R. (2008). Human heredity: principles & issues. Bethesda, MD: Cengage Learning

Shepard, T. H., & Lemire, R. J. (2004). Catalog of teratogenic agents. Baltimore, MD: JHU Press.

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