Factors that affect fetal development

Factors that can affect your baby's development include nutrition, smoking, alcohol, illegal drugs and prenatal care. If you are over 35 years old, your doctor's visits are even more critical, because of the higher risk of pregnancy difficulties.


Your baby's development depends on proper nutrition. Most important are folate and folic acid, calcium, protein and iron. These are important to your baby's growth and can prevent birth defects and low birth weight.


Smoking, including second-hand smoke, can contribute to low birth weight, preterm delivery, stillbirth and chronic health problems for the baby, including cerebral palsy, mental retardation or learning disabilities. Smoking can cause problems during pregnancy, such as placental previa and placental abruption.

Alcohol & Drugs

Using alcohol during your pregnancy can cause behavioural and physical problems for your baby, as well as fetal alcohol syndrome. Issues of fetal alcohol syndrome include birth defects, mental retardation, growth and nervous system problems, and vision and hearing issues. If you use illegal drugs during your pregnancy, your baby could have low birth weight, birth defects or symptoms of withdrawal at birth.

Prenatal Care

Prenatal doctor's visits are critical during your pregnancy, to follow the growth of your baby. Your doctor will likely prescribe vitamin supplements to support the development of your unborn child.


If you are over the age of 35 and pregnant, you are at higher risk of developing problems for both your baby and yourself. The risk of birth defects, miscarriage and stillbirths is higher. You can develop high blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy. The chance of needing a Caesarean section is also slightly higher in this case.

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