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Cigarette Smoking Effects on Prenatal Development Essay

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A teratogen is defined as, “any agent that can potentially cause a birth defect or negatively alter cognitive and behavioral outcomes” (Santrock, 2013, p. 82). According to the Baby Center website, cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 teratogens that can affect prenatal development (Woolston, 1997-2014). Cigarettes are the most common nonmedical drug used during pregnancy (Key, et al., 2007, p. 623). A fetus is dependent on its mother for all of its nutrients needed to grow properly. When the mother chooses to smoke cigarettes, the fetus is starved of both oxygen and nutrients. Several studies have been done showing that this effect on prenatal development can have consequences extending beyond the womb.
The first two trimesters of
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Prenatal central nervous system impairment secondary to the mother smoking, has an apparent effect on a newborn infant’s capability to babble and form syllables (Key, et al., 2007). Once a baby is born, it almost immediately begins making sounds that may pose as no significant relevance. As the brain matures, sounds become syllables, and syllables become a babble. When the head circumference is impaired during prenatal development, the temporal lobe (which is responsible for hearing, speech, and memory) is also restricted (Santrock, 2013, p. 112). A group of researchers selected 16 neonates (8 from non-smoking mothers and 8 from smoking mothers) from a Midwestern hospital and compared the two groups’ speech processing ability (Key, et al., 2007, p. 624). The results were very different. When provided with a stimulus, babies of non-smokers were able to distinguish both vowel and consonant sounds within 150 milliseconds. On the contrary, babies of smokers distinguished fewer vowel and consonant sounds after 150 milliseconds (Key, et al., 2007, p. 627). This delay in speech stays with the neonate and interferes with future language-processing abilities. Researchers tie this into a child’s attention span and learning disabilities (Key, et al., 2007,
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