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Maternal Exposure / Physical Agents
 
IONIZING RADIATION
  • Acute large-dose radiation has no effect nor is it lethal to the embryo during the pre-implantation stage. During the period of embryogenesis it causes microcephaly mental and growth retardation.
  • The risk is greatest at 8-15 weeks of gestation.
  • Continuous chronic low dose exposure of less than 5rad has no adverse effects.
  • There is an association between in utero exposure to diagnostic radiation and childhood leukemia.
  • Video Display Terminals (VDT) has no adverse reproductive outcomes.
 

HYPERTHERMIA, PYREXIA
  • May cause neural tube defects in the fetus.
  • May cause abortions, intrauterine death or preterm labor.
 

ORGANIC MERCURY- METHYL MERCURY
  • Maternal poisoning causes fetal neurologic damage with psychomotor retardation, seizures, cerebral palsy, blindness and deafness.
  • Low-level methyl mercury exposure may cause chromosomal abnormalities in the embryo; and has been shown to be lethal in animals at high doses causing structural malformations such as exencephaly and limb deformities.
 

ELEMENTAL MERCURY (VAPOR)
  • Chronic exposure to high doses (more than 0.01 mg/m3) can cause cranial defects and fetal resorption in animals.
  • Limited human data available, but possible association present between chronic exposure to high doses with abortions and brain damage to the fetus.
 
LEAD
  • Lead concentration in the blood should not exceed 25meg/dL in women of reproductive age and should be less than 10 mg/dL in pregnant women, to ensure no adverse effects to the fetus. Women should not work in areas where lead concentration in the air reaches 50 meg/cm3.
  • Exposure to high levels can cause embryotoxicity, growth and mental retardation, abortions, premature rupture of membranes, preterm deliveries, neurologic impairment (attention deficit disorders, hearing deficit, learning disabilities) and short stature.
  • Prenatal lead exposure may cause impaired mental development.
  • Mothers exposed to high lead levels should avoid breast feeding.
     
 
ORGANIC SOLVENTS INCLUDING TOLUENE
  • Maternal solvent abuse by sniffing may cause embryopathy similar to fetal alcohol syndrome.
  • Occupational exposure to organic solvent may cause spontaneous abortions.
 
ANESTHETIC GASES
  • Women chronically exposed to anesthetic gases in the 1st trimester are at increased risk to spontaneous abortions.
  • Maternal exposure to anesthetic gases increases the risk of congenital anomalies (Spina bifida).
  • Chronic exposure to unscavenged nitrous oxide may reduce fertility and increase the risk of spontaneous abortion.
 

SMOKING
  • Associated with:
    • Small for date babies
    • Prematurity
    • Increase in rate of spontaneous abortion and increase in perinatal mortality due to an increased risk of abruption, placenta previa and premature rupture of membranes.
  • Passive smoking is also associated with low birth weight at term.
  • Associated with sudden infant death syndrome.

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