Prenatal and Newborn Development

Ashlee Vice EDU/305 September 21, 2015 Kimberly Scott UOPX

Prenatal Care and Education

From the moment a woman finds out she is pregnant, she has likely already been pregnant for a few weeks. Early care is critical to ensure that the mother and baby are both in good health and receiving proper nutrition. Continued healthcare ensures that problems are avoided or detected early enough for intervention. Talking to a doctor and learning about all of the developmental risks helps mothers to make informed decisions about how to encourage healthy growth during pregnancy and infancy.

Prenatal Development

Teratogens Negatively Impact Growth and Development

Teratogens are most closely linked to premature births, low birth weight, stillbirths, physical abnormalities, and mental developmental delays. These include prescription and non-prescription drugs, illegal drugs, tobacco, alcohol, radiation, environmental pollution, and infectious diseases. "Any drug with a molecule small enough to penetrate the placental barrier can enter the embryonic or fetal bloodstream" and should therefore be avoided throughout the entire pregnancy (Berk, L. E. 2012. p. 106). Babies may be born addicted to drugs or suffer from one of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders if these teratogens are allowed to cross the placental barrier during pregnancy. More severe physical abnormalities can be evident if these teratogens are present during sensitive periods. It is important to educate yourself on the risks associated with each of these teratogens to make the most appropriate decisions toward avoiding them, especially prescription and non-prescription drugs that may seem necessary but could be incredibly harmful.

Other Increased Developmental Risks

Maternal Factors Can Influence Healthy Development

Regular moderate exercise promotes health in both the mother and baby. It can also decrease maternal discomfort because exercise is proven to release endorphins in the brain which are natural painkillers; yoga and calming breathing routines can also help decrease maternal stress. Nutrition is especially important throughout pregnancy, but even more so during the sensitive periods. It is important to take supplemental vitamins to ensure that the baby is receiving adequate nutrition and minerals essential for healthy growth and development. A mother should also increase her caloric intake by 100 calories per day in the first trimester, 265 calories per day in the second trimester, and 430 calories per day in the third trimester adding up to a healthy weight gain of 25-30 pounds (Berk, L. E. 2012).
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Once the prenatal stage has been completed and a mother has done her work to ensure that her baby is developing appropriately, the time comes to deliver the child. The first stage of childbirth is dilation and effacement of the cervix which is laden with painful contractions and getting the body ready for the second stage which is the pushing and delivery. After the baby has been born, the final stage is the delivery of the placenta. There are various options for where this momentous life event will occur such as the location, medication, and medical procedures necessary. It's important to educate yourself on the risks associated with these options and discuss a birth plan with your doctor (Berk, L. E. 2012).

Newborn Development

Once the baby has safely arrived, there are a few factors that will contribute to to his or her development. Biological makeup and gene expression are the core of this development. These attributes cannot be adjusted and are comprised of half of the genetic material from the father and half from the mother. They will dictate appearance, and predisposition to certain temperaments, behaviors, and likes or dislikes along with everything in between. Parents can control the environment in which their child develops in order to enhance, compliment, or negate biological influences. The way in which a parent speaks to a child may impact their attitude and behaviors or handle conflict resolution. Parents can encourage certain predispositions, such as musical inclination, to emerge and be enhanced through instruction of a musical instrument. Environmental factors influence the way in which a child learns to interact with the world around them (Berk, L. E. 2012).

Cultural Influences

The culture a child is born into dictates what their world will be like and teach him or her how to interact with it. "Cultures shape family interaction, school experiences, and community settings beyond the home--in short, all aspects of daily life" (Berk, L. E. 2012, p. 78). Lev Vygotsky developed the sociocultural theory which captures this element of cultural values, customs, and ideas being passed down through generations. Urie Bronfenbrenner developed the ecological systems theory which elaborates on how the areas of cultural influence impact a child through the macrosystem, exosystem, mesosystem, and microsystem (Berk, L. E. 2012). If a culture views child rearing as the sole responsibility of parents, there tends to be less government funded programs or readily available resources to support child development. If the cultural view is more collectivist, individuals are more concerned about the greater good of the whole society therefore increasing the tendency to place child development as a higher priority. If a culture views academic success as a high value, more federal funding and parental energy is spent ensuring children reach high educational achievements. The same holds true of every country and culture where a certain value is ranked higher depending on societal needs which are directly reflected in the way a child is raised.

Newborn Baby Capacities and First Year Milestones

Encourage Developmental Growth

As parents, you have a great responsibility and privilege to encourage and watch your child grow. There are many ways that you can encourage different milestones to be reached by engaging in stimulating play and understanding the needs of your child. Speaking in calm tones, telling stories full of exaggerated tones and inflection, and reading books helps your child to develop language skills and form a healthy relationship leading to emotional development and maturity. Having your child spend time on his or her stomach helps develop muscle tone in the neck and back which help support the child's head when he or she becomes more upright. Encouraging your child to sit, stand, and walk with your support until they are able to support themselves is another effective way to aid in development. Understanding how you can both positively and negatively affect developmental growth is very important in helping your child learn how to interact with his or her world. Remember the senses and reflexes that your baby is born with and use that knowledge to enhance your interactions such as putting your face close to your baby's eyes so he or she can focus on you. By providing your child with the opportunity and resources to explore their environment, they will learn how to interact with it and learn through this interactive play. Children will learn appropriate social and emotional responses based on the way in which you respond to various circumstances; whether you become angry and raise your voice or you remain calm and collected so it is important to remember which reaction you are influencing. Exposing your child to all of these experiences early on helps them to develop physically, mentally, and emotionally which prepares them to progress to the next stage of life and sets them up for academic and social success in school and society.


Berk, L. E. (2012). Infants, Children, and Adolescents (7th ed.). Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection database.

Berk, L. E. (2012). Infants, Children, and Adolescents (7th ed.). Fetus (p. 101) [Image] Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection database.

Berk, L. E. (2012). Infants, Children, and Adolescents (7th ed.). Maternal age graph (p. 115) [Image] Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection database.

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