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Developmental Disorders

Developmental Disorders


This lesson will examine factors that can cause certain birth defects or developmental disorders.

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Source: Video and Images Created by Amanda Soderlind

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Welcome to this lesson today on developmental disorders. Today we are going to be discussing the causes and effects of various developmental disorders. So the first thing we need to define is what a teratogen is. And a teratogen is an agent that can cause birth defects. So teratogens can be things like drugs, infections, deficiency of nutrients, viruses, et cetera. So it's an agent that can cause a birth defect.

So let's take a look at our first defect labeled here, spina bifida. So spina bifida is a birth defect that is caused by a deficiency of nutrients. So the teratogen in this case would be nutrition. So spina bifida is when the neural tube doesn't close, and therefore, part of the spinal cord may be exposed on the baby.

And this is due to a lack of folic acid during development. So folic acid is an important nutrient that mothers need to make sure they get enough of while they are pregnant because folic acid is important in the development of the baby. So if they don't get enough folic acid, this neural tube is not going to close, and then they can end up with spina bifida.

These next two right here, rubella and toxoplasmosis, are two disorders that can be caused by infections. So the teratogen in this case, then, would be an infection. So rubella actually is specifically a virus. And what it does is it inhibits proper development of organs of the baby if the mother contracts the virus while pregnant. So if a pregnant mother contracts rubella, it will have an impact on her baby because the organs of that baby might not properly develop.

And then toxoplasmosis is caused specifically by a parasitic cyst. And these parasitic cysts can affect the fetus and cause birth defects or miscarriage. So this is caused through exposure to cat feces.

So basically, when mothers are pregnant, they're warned to stay away from any cat feces. If they have a cat in the house, they're supposed to stay away from the litter box, because this parasitic cyst is spread through cat feces. And basically this parasitic cyst can cause birth defects or even a miscarriage if the mother is exposed to them. So that's toxoplasmosis. It's not super common, but it is something that can happen.

And then the last disorder we're going to talk about today is fetal alcohol syndrome, sometimes also called FAS, fetal alcohol syndrome. So fetal alcohol syndrome is a disorder that causes mental retardation if a mother drinks alcohol while pregnant. So there are actually various different types of drugs that can lead to developmental disorders. And a mother should never do any type of drugs while pregnant because of the increased risk of these disorders.

But the one we're going to focus on today is just with alcohol. So that's fetal alcohol syndrome. So if a mother drinks alcohol while pregnant, it can cause this mental retardation. And this can vary a little bit depending on the severity. So some cases of fetal alcohol syndrome are more severe than others. So this lesson has been an overview on various types of developmental disorders and their causes.

Terms to Know
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

A birth defect that leads to mental retardation due to consumption of alcohol by the mother while pregnant.


A virus that can be contracted by a pregnant mother and lead to improper organ development of the baby, also known as German measles.

Spina Bifida

A condition in which lack of folic acid intake by the mother can lead to the neural tube not closing and a portion of the spinal cord being exposed on the child.


Anything that can cause or contribute to the development of a birth defect.


A condition in which parasitic cysts from exposure to cat feces can infect the mother and fetus causing birth defects or miscarriage.