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Agent Orange Birth Defects

Sprayed extensively by the US military in Vietnam, Agent Orange contained a dioxin contaminant later found to be toxic to humans. Despite reports by Vietnamese citizens and Vietnam War veterans of increased rates of stillbirths and birth defects in their children, studies in the 1980s showed conflicting evidence for an association between the two. In 1996, the US National Academy of Sciences reported that there was evidence that suggested dioxin and Agent Orange exposure caused spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal cord develops improperly.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Birth Defects Caused by Agent Orange

During the Vietnamese War between 1961 and 1971 the United States armed forces engaged in a massive defoliation and crop destruction campaign named Operation Ranch Hand. Agent Orange, an herbicide so named because of the orange color of its storage barrels, was the most heavily used herbicide of the campaign. In addition to military personnel from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and the United States, an estimated 4.8 million Vietnamese civilians were exposed to herbicides during the war.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Developmental Timeline of Alcohol-Induced Birth Defects

Maternal consumption of alcohol (ethanol) during pregnancy can result in a continuum of embryonic developmental abnormalities that vary depending on the severity, duration, and frequency of exposure of ethanol during gestation. Alcohol is a teratogen, an environmental agent that impacts the normal development of an embryo or fetus. In addition to dose-related concerns, factors such as maternal genetics and metabolism and the timing of alcohol exposure during prenatal development also impact alcohol-related birth defects.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Environment and Birth Defects (1973), by James G. Wilson

Environment and Birth Defects by James Graves Wilson in the US was published in 1973. The book summarized information on the causes of malformations in newborns and aimed to acquaint policy makers with Wilson's suggestions for predicting the risks of environmental causes of birth defects, called teratogens. Wilson also provided six principles for researching teratogens, a framework revised from his 1959 article Experimental Studies on Congenital Malformations. The book has ten chapters.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Congenital Vertebral Defects

The spinal column is the central structure in the vertebrate body from which stability, movement, and posture all derive. The vertebrae of the spine are organized into four regions (listed in order from cranial to caudal): cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and pelvic. These regions are classified by their differences in curvature. The human spine usually consists of thirty-three vertebrae, seven of which are cervical (C1-C7), twelve are thoracic (T1-T12), five are lumbar (L1-L5), and nine are pelvic (five fused as the sacrum and four fused as the coccyx).

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

"Vietnam Veterans' Risks for Fathering Babies with Birth Defects" (1984), by J. David Erickson et al.

In 1984, J. David Erickson and his research team published the results of a study titled 'Vietnam Veterans' Risks for Fathering Babies with Birth Defects' that indicated that Vietnam veterans were at increased risk of fathering infants with serious congenital malformations, or birth defects.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Neural Tube Defects (NTD): Folic Acid and Pregnancy

In the US, one in 1000 births is affected by neural tube defects (NTD). A neural tube defect is a birth defect involving the malformation of body features associated with the brain and spinal cord. An NTD originates from and is characterized by incomplete closure of the neural tube, which is an organizer and precursor of the central nervous system.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

The China-US Study on the Prevention of Neural Tube Defects using Folic Acid (1999)

From 1993 to 1995 researchers led by Robert J. Berry from the US Centers for Disease Control headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, and Zhu Li from Beijing Medical University in Beijing, China, conducted a collaborative study in China on the prevention of neural tube defects or NTDs using folic acid supplements. NTDs are birth defects in which openings in the spinal cord or the brain that occur during early development remain after birth. Neural-tube formation occurs in early pregnancy, often before a woman knows she is pregnant and therefore before she has begun taking prenatal vitamins.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

James G. Wilson's Six Principles of Teratology

James Graves Wilson's six principles of teratology, published in 1959, guide research on teratogenic agents and their effects on developing organisms. Wilson's six principles were inspired by Gabriel Madeleine Camille Dareste's five principles of experimental teratology published in 1877. Teratology is the study of birth defects, and a teratogen is something that either induces or amplifies abnormal embryonic or fetal development and causes birth defects.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

The Birth Control Pill

The birth control pill, more commonly known as "the pill" is a form of contraception taken daily in pill form and consisting of synthetic hormones formulated to prevent ovulation, fertilization, and implantation of a fertilized egg. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first birth control pill, Enovid, in June 1960. It was the first contraceptive pill marketed worldwide. Since then a number of different pills have been developed, which differ in hormone type and dosage, and whether they contain one hormone (the minipill) or two (the combination pill).

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Circulatory Changes at Birth

When placental mammals are born their circulatory systems undergo radical changes as the newborns are prepared for independent life. The lungs are engaged, becoming the primary source of fresh oxygen, replacing the placental barrier as a means for blood-gas exchange.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Corpus Callosum Defects Associated with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) can result in a continuum of developmental abnormalities that are highly variable depending on the severity, duration, frequency, and timing of exposure during gestation. Defects of the corpus callosum (CC) have proven to be a reliable indicator of prenatal alcohol exposure as it affects the brain. Structural abnormalities of the CC occur along a continuum, like most alcohol-induced anomalies, whereby more severe prenatal exposure results in a greater expression of the abnormal trait.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Anencephaly

Anencephaly is an open neural tube defect, meaning that part of the neural tube does not properly close or that it has reopened during early embryogenesis. An embryo with anencephaly develops without the top of the skull, but retains a partial skull, including the face. Anencephaly is one of the most common birth defects of the neural tube, occurring at a rate of approximately one in one thousand human pregnancies. The condition can be caused by environmental exposure to chemicals, dietary deficiencies, or genetic mutations.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Birth without Violence (1975), by Frederick Leboyer

In Birth without Violence (1975), French obstetrician Frederick Leboyer describes in poetic form the possible perceptions and feelings of embryos and fetuses before, during, and after birth. His work has helped to promote a gentler and more sensitive birthing method with the goal of easing the newborn's transition from the womb to the outside world. Leboyer's birthing method influenced later birth techniques such as water birth and unassisted childbirth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Reproduction

Birth Control or the Limitation of Offspring (1936), by William J. Robinson

Birth Control or the Limitation of Offspring was written by American eugenics and birth control advocate William J. Robinson. First published in 1916, the final edition (forty-eighth) was published in 1936, the same year that Robinson died. As a medical doctor and author, Robinson used his influence to promote propaganda for "fewer and better babies," by focusing on contraception. Even Margaret Sanger, another prominent eugenics and birth control advocate, took great interest in this book. Robinson had three goals in mind when writing Birth Control.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Reproduction

Enovid: The First Hormonal Birth Control Pill

Enovid was the first hormonal birth control pill. G. D. Searle and Company began marketing Enovid as a contraceptive in 1960. The technology was created by the joint efforts of many individuals and organizations, including Margaret Sanger, Katharine McCormick, Gregory Pincus, John Rock, Syntex, S.A. Laboratories, and G.D. Searle and Company Laboratories.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Josef Warkany (1902–1992)

Josef Warkany studied the environmental causes of birth defects in the United States in the twentieth century. Warkany was one of the first researchers to show that factors in the environment could cause birth defects, and he helped to develop guidelines for the field of teratology, the study of birth defects. Prior to Warkany’s work, scientists struggled to explain if or how environmental agents could cause birth defects. Warkany demonstrated that a deficiency or excess of vitamin A in maternal nutrition could cause birth defects.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Berman v. Allan (1979)

The Supreme Court of New Jersey decided the case of Berman v. Allan on 26 June 1979, brought by Shirley Berman and Paul Berman and their daughter Sharon Esther Berman against Ronald Allan and Michael Vincent Attardi, Shirley's physicians. The court dismissed the Bermans' claims for what they termed wrongful life of their daughter, but allowed them to claim compensation as a result of what was termed wrongful birth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Sidney Q. Cohlan (1915-1999)

Sidney Q. Cohlan studied birth defects in the US during the twentieth century. Cohlan helped to discover that if a pregnant woman ate too much vitamin A her fetus faced a higher than normal risk of teratogenic effects, such as cleft palate. A teratogen is a substance that causes malformation of a developing organism. Cohlan also identified the teratogenic effects of several other substances including a lack of normal magnesium and prenatal exposure to the antibiotic tetracycline.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"Drama of Life Before Birth" (1965), by Life Magazine and Lennart Nilsson

Life Magazine's 1965 cover story "Drama of Life Before Birth" featured photographs of embryos and fetuses taken by Swedish photojournalist Lennart Nilsson to document the developmental stages of a human embryo. Included in this article was the first published image of a living fetus inside its mother's womb. Prior to this, embryos and fetuses were observed, studied, and photographed outside of women's bodies as non-living specimens.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Outreach, Reproduction

Virginia Apgar (1909-1974)

Virginia Apgar worked as an obstetrical anesthesiologist, administering drugs that reduce women’s pain during childbirth, in the US in the mid-twentieth century. In 1953, Apgar created a scoring system using five easily assessable measurements, including heart rate and breathing rate, to evaluate whether or not infants would benefit from medical attention immediately after birth. Apgar’s system showed that infants who were previously set aside as too sick to survive, despite low Apgar scores, could recover with immediate medical attention.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Isotretinoin (Accutane) as a Teratogen

Isotretinoin is a molecule and a byproduct (metabolite) of vitamin A, and in greater than normal amounts in pregnant women, it can cause fetal abnormalities including cleft lips, ear and eye defects, and mental retardation. Isotretinoin is commonly called by its trade name Accutane, and it's a chemical compound derived from vitamin A, or retinoic acid. Doctors prescribe isotretinoin to treat severe acne. For pregnant women, too much vitamin A or isotretinoin can also cause greater than normal rates of stillbirths and fetal disintegrations after the ninth week of gestation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders

The Time Has Come: A Catholic Doctor's Proposals to End the Battle over Birth Control (1963), by John Rock

In 1963, Roman Catholic fertility doctor John Rock published The Time Has Come: A Catholic Doctor's Proposals to End the Battle over Birth Control, a first-person treatise on the use of scientifically approved forms of birth control for Catholic couples. The first contraceptive pill, called Enovid, had been on the market since June 1960, and Rock was one of the leading researchers in its development. In The Time Has Come, Rock explicitly describes the arguments for and against the use of birth control from both a religious and a scientific perspective.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Religion, Reproduction

Infant Mortality: Results of a Field Study in Johnstown, PA., Based on Births in One Calendar Year (1915), by Emma Duke

The book Infant Mortality: Results of a Field Study in Johnstown, PA., Based on Births in One Calendar Year (1915), written by Emma Duke, detailed one of the first infant mortality field studies conducted by the US Children's Bureau. In the study, Duke and her colleagues collected information about over one thousand infants in the city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. They used that information, along with interviews conducted with the families of the infants, to identify factors that affected infant mortality rates in the community.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Publications

"Congenital Cataract following German Measles in the Mother" (1941), by Norman McAlister Gregg

In Australia in the 1940s, Norman McAlister Gregg observed a connection between pregnant women who contracted the rubella virus, or German measles, and cataract formation in their children's eyes. Gregg published his findings in the 1941 article Congenital Cataract following German Measles in the Mother in Transactions of the Ophthalmological Society of Australia. In the article, Gregg analyzed seventy-eight cases of congenital cataracts and suggested that the mothers' environmental factors could cause birth defects, otherwise known as teratogenic effects.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

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