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In the 1950s and 1960s, researchers Leon Chesley, John Annitto, and Robert Cosgrove investigated the possible familial factor for the conditions of preeclampsia and eclampsia in pregnant women. Preeclampsia and eclampsia, which are related to high blood pressure, have unknown causes and affect at least five percent of all pregnancies.
Maternal consumption of alcohol (ethanol) during pregnancy can inhibit prenatal growth, resulting in fetuses that are small for gestational age. Those prenatal growth deficiencies can have lasting consequences for early childhood development and are often reflected by low weight and stature. Those alcohol-induced pre- and post-natal growth deficiencies ("failure to thrive") are among the abnormal developmental criteria used to identify Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS is characterized by minor facial abnormalities and deficiencies of the central nervous system as well.
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.
Cocaine use by pregnant women has a variety of effects on the embryo and fetus, ranging from various gastro-intestinal and cardiac defects to tissue death from insufficient blood supply. Thus, cocaine has been termed a teratogen, or an agent that causes defects in fetuses during prenatal development. Cocaine is one of the most commonly used drugs in the US and it has a history of both medical and illegal recreational use. It is a drug capable of a wide array of effects on physical and mental health.