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Prenatal Development

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By ohyeahjoe
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Prenatal development can be divided into three stages: preimplantation, embryonic, and fetal. The preimplantation period, between fertilization and implantation of the conceptus in the uterine wall, takes an average of 7 days. The embryonic period is considered to be the major period of organogenesis, lasting about 2 months from conception. During the fetal period, lasting until about 38 weeks after conception, growth, functional maturation, and further differentiation of tissues occur.

The prenatal period is highly sensitive to disruption by toxic substances because of the high rate of cell division and the intricate and complex coordination among chemical, cellular, and genetic processes that is necessary for normal development. Toxic insults to the conceptus are thought more likely to be lethal during the preimplantation and embryonic periods than the fetal period. The timing of an exposure or event has a dramatic influence on the developmental effects that will likely result. For example, alterations of hormones such as prostaglandins and the progesterone-estrogen balance can prevent implantation, resulting in embryonic death. During organogenesis, when the molecular, cellular, and morphological structural organization of tissues and organs takes place, the embryo is considered to be most susceptible to structural defects. Animal experiments show that the exact timing of exposure to a teratogen affects the pattern of structural malformations. However, malformations usually occur in more than one organ system because of overlap in the sensitive period of development of different systems. Functional effects and growth retardation, rather than malformations, are considered to be the most likely outcomes of toxic exposures during the fetal period. However, there are exceptions to these generalizations. For example, skeletal abnormalities in mice can be induced...

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