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Prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) results in a continuum of physical, neurological, behavioral, and learning defects collectively grouped under the heading fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most severe combination of these defects under this heading, and is characterized by pre- and postnatal growth deficiencies, facial abnormalities, and defects of the central nervous system (CNS).
Methylmercury (MeHg) is an organic form of mercury that can damage the developing brains of human fetuses. Women who consume methylmercury during pregnancy can bear children who have neurological issues because methylmercury has toxic effects on the nervous system during embryonic development. During the third week of gestation, the human nervous system begins to form in the embryo. During this gestational period, the embryo's nervous system is particularly susceptible to the influence of neurotoxins like methylmercury that can result in abnormalities.
Endoscopy is a medical procedure that enables the viewing and biopsy of, and surgery on, internal tissues and organs. Endoscopic examinations are characterized by the introduction of a tube containing a series of lenses into the body through either an incision in the skin or a natural opening or cavity. During the mid-twentieth century, photographer Lennart Nilsson used endoscopes to capture the now-familiar images of embryos and fetuses.
Fetal surgeries are a range of medical interventions performed in utero on the developing fetus of a pregnant woman to treat a number of congenital abnormalities. The first documented fetal surgical procedure occurred in 1963 in Auckland, New Zealand when A. William Liley treated fetal hemolytic anemia, or Rh disease, with a blood transfusion.
Charles Benedict Davenport was an early twentieth-century experimental zoologist. Davenport founded both the Station for Experimental Evolution and the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor in New York. Though he was a talented statistician and skilled scientist, Davenport's scientific achievements are eclipsed by his lasting legacy as the scientific leader of the eugenics movement in the US.
Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) is a rare placental disease that can occur at any time during pregnancy involving identical twins. TTTS occurs when there is an unequal distribution of placental blood vessels between fetuses, which leads to a disproportionate supply of blood delivered. This unequal allocation of blood leads to developmental problems in both fetuses that can range in severity depending on the type, direction, and number of interconnected blood vessels.
Lap-Chee Tsui is a geneticist who discovered the cystic fibrosis (CF) gene, and his research team sequenced human chromosome 7. As the location of the cystic fibrosis gene is now known, it is possible for doctors and specialists to identify in human fetuses the mutation that causes the fatal disease. Tsui's research also outlined the mechanisms for the development of cystic fibrosis, which were previously unknown.
In 1976, midwife Ina May Gaskin published Spiritual Midwifery, with other editions published in 1980, 1990, and 2003. Spiritual Midwifery is a book about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, or the time period after birth. During the 1970s, it was common for women to receive an epidural, a medication that reduces pain during labor, and for physicians to monitor a fetus’s heartbeat while separating women from their infants after birth. However, according to Gaskin, some women wanted to give birth outside of the hospital without medical interventions.
William Smellie helped to incorporate scientific medicine into the process of childbirth in eighteenth century Britain. As a male physician practicing in childbirth and female reproductive health (man-midwife), Smellie developed and taught procedures to treat breech fetuses, which occur when a fetus fails to rotate its head towards the birth canal during delivery. Throughout his career, Smellie compiled a wealth of information about female anatomy in his writings. He modified medical technology such as the obstetrical forceps, an instrument used to maneuver the fetus during childbirth.
Harry Hamilton Laughlin helped lead the eugenics
movement in the United States during the early twentieth century.
The US eugenics movement of the early twentieth century sought to
reform the genetic composition of the United States population through
sterilization and other restrictive reproductive measures. Laughlin
worked as superintendent and assistant director of the Eugenics
Research Office (ERO) at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold
Spring Harbor, New York, alongside director Charles Davenport.
John Hunter studied human reproductive anatomy, and in eighteenth century England, performed one of the earliest described cases of artificial insemination. Hunter dissected thousands of animals and human cadavers to study the structures and functions of organ systems. Much of his anatomical studies focused on the circulatory, digestive, and reproductive systems. He helped to describe the exchange of blood between pregnant women and their fetuses. Hunter also housed various natural collections, as well as thousands of preserved specimens from greater than thirty years of anatomy work.