Human development is a remarkably complex process whereby the union of two small cells can after a period of time give rise to a new human being, complete with vital organs, bones, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and much more. Considering the intricacy of the developmental process, it is indeed miraculous that most babies are born healthy. Some children, however, are born with abnormalities. Environmental agents, such as drugs, are responsible for some of these abnormalities. Unfortunately, social and therapeutic drugs are widely used among pregnant women. Many commonly used drugs are known to disrupt the normal developmental process and cause a wide range of birth defects, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems. This paper will briefly summarize the normal process of human development and the roles of the fetal membranes and the placenta. It will also explain how teratogens can interfere with normal development and cause a variety of congenital abnormalities. In addition, this paper will describe some of the known and suspected teratogenic drugs and their harmful effects on a developing embryo/fetus. Finally, the last portion of the paper will describe the making of the accompanying pamphlet: the conceptual, research, and technical processes behind the final product. The pamphlet was made with the intention of educating expectant mothers about the harmful effects of drug use during pregnancy and lactation. The pamphlet focuses on risks associated with drugs such as alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, heroin, and cocaine, as well as prescription and over-the-counter medications. Many women are not aware of the potential dangers associated with prenatal drug exposure, and some women, although aware of the potential adverse effects of using drugs during pregnancy, have conditions which require medication. Women receiving treatment need to understand the importance of consulting their doctors upon becoming pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, to determine the safest course of action for both themselves and their babies. Also, it is important for women to be aware of the possible risks associated with breastfeeding while taking drugs. Many drugs a mother uses can be transmitted to her breastfed child. Breastfeeding is generally recommended because breastmilk contains numerous substances which defend a newborn against infections, and the act of breastfeeding helps create a bond between mother and child. However, maternal use of certain drugs may require the mother to stop nursing in order to minimize risk to the baby. Further research in the field of teratology and increased public awareness regarding the harmful effects of drugs on a developing fetus promise to significantly reduce the rate of preventable birth defects.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Drug abuse in pregnancy; Newborn infants--Effect of drugs on; Fetus--Effect of drugs on; Abnormalities, Human--Etiology; Teratogenic agents; Human reproduction--Effect of drugs on

Publication Date


Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

School of Art (CIAS)


Wabnitz, Robert

Advisor/Committee Member

Wanek, Nancy

Advisor/Committee Member

Hintz, Glen


Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works. Physical copy available through RIT's The Wallace Library at: RG580.D76 K6 1999


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