Teratogens and Surprise Babies… and Tuna

How does what we know about teratogens relate to “surprise pregnancies?” (ie. those who are not trying or planning to get pregnant?

A woman could carry a child for at least a month before discovering her cargo. So within those 4 weeks she could ingest substances that are unwholesome to the development of the baby, and do it entirely unknowingly. A woman who regularly ingests teratogens will be more likely to hurt the baby during this time, then one that regularly consumes teratogens, but stops her consumption because she is planning on becoming pregnant. So to compare a regular consumer and a non-consumer, the regular consumer is much more likely to expose the baby to teratogens during the first 4 weeks of pregnancy, then the non-consumer. Thus, if a child is going to be a surprise, its chances for minimal harm due to teratogen consumption are much better if conceived by the non-consumer.

As illustrated in the book(figure 3.8 (7th ed)), weeks 3 and 4 show the beginnings of critical periods for 6 body parts, most notably the heart and central nervous system. Alcohol, prescription drugs, illegal drugs, and smoking, may all have enduring effects even though the mother stops as soon as they discover they are pregnant(assuming they have been informed and are aware that these behaviors are detrimental to the baby’s health). Continuing consuming these substances, whether out of ignorance or apathy for the child, is determined by the mother after she knows she is pregnant, and may result in further damage.

Big game fish like tuna, sword fish, etc. are examples of teratogens I’d like to use. Due to various reasons, big game fish like tuna contain a high enough mercury content that eating it often enough could be hazardous to people in general, let alone a fetus.

Here is a site that gives a persons weight to tuna safe intake chart.


Suppose one extrapolated the chart to include a fetus that weighs 3 lbs or less?

If a woman isn’t aware that she is pregnant, even if she is consuming tuna in levels that are safe for her, it could be harmful to the fetus.

Stuart Walker


~ by havok43v3r on August 29, 2009.

2 Responses to “Teratogens and Surprise Babies… and Tuna”

  1. I hope you have time to respond to my comment. I looked at your link you posted and found another topic concerning high amounts of Mercury in sushi. This makes me wonder if there are negative side effects in new born children born especially to those in Asian countries where sushi is more widely consumed. Have you heard anything about this? I’ll try to find something and let you know also. Thanks for this…

  2. In regards to both the post and the comment:
    I am from a southeastern asian family and I find this whole topic on Alcohol and mercury consumption during pregnancy incredibly interesting. I am the youngest and only child to be born in the states and from what my mom tells me, her pregnancy here was very different from what it was in southeast Asia. For one thing, you’re told not to eat fish during the pregnancy due to fear of mercury poisoining. My mom had two sons while she lived in a sea-side city in Asia and all she ate was fish. In fact, she ate fish while she was pregnant with me because that’s what she craved and she didn’t listen to her doctor. Also, the “elders” of the family would tell her to drink beer during her pregnancy because for some reason they believed it benefited the baby’s brain. How ironic isn’t it? Thankfully, she didn’t ingest alcohol during her pregnancy with me since she hates the taste. But during her pregnancies with my older brothers, she drank alcohol for the supposed benefit to her babies.

    What makes it all interesting to me is that regardless of what my mother ingested during her pregnancy, my brothers and I turned out (at least from my own judgement) perfectly fine. So I am more inclined to believe that it is the amount of alcohol or type of fish taken during the pregnancy that has an adverse effect; rather than any taken at all.

    kathy phan

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