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Understand the Effects of Maternal Lifestyle on the Fetus

In this worksheet, students will understand the effects of maternal lifestyle on the fetus.

'Understand the Effects of Maternal Lifestyle on the Fetus' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 3

Year:  Year 7 Science worksheets

Curriculum topic:   Biology: Structure and Function of Living Organisms

Curriculum subtopic:   Reproduction

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

Pregnant women go for regular scans. An ultrasound scan produces images of the unborn fetus


Image of ultrasound scan


This allows doctors to keep an eye on the development and growth of the fetus. It also allows them to spot anything unusual. 

As well as looking at the fetus, the doctor will also check the placenta and umbilical cord.




The placenta supplies the fetus with oxygen and nutrients and removes waste like carbon dioxide and urea (which forms urine).  The fetus is joined to the placenta by an umbilical cord, along which the chemicals flow (in and out) through blood vessels.  


Did you know that as well as essential nutrients, the placenta can pass on unwanted substances? Recently, microplastics (tiny plastic particles) have even been found in the placenta. These were probably from packaging or cosmetics. 



fetus in womb


It's really important that a pregnant woman has a healthy diet to support the growing fetus with the necessary vitamins and minerals. This will also help to fight disease.


Image of fruit and vegetables


Some bacteria and viruses can be passed onto the fetus, so doctors often advise pregnant women to have vaccinations against common diseases, for example like the flu vaccine. This helps to protect both the mother and growing fetus, in this example against the flu virus.


It's also important that the mothers cardiovascular system is working well, so exercising will help keep her muscles strong. 


Image of cigaretts


Cigarettes contain thousands of chemicals. When a pregnant woman smokes, these chemicals can be passed on to the developing fetus through the placenta. Gases like carbon monoxide take the place of oxygen in the blood of the fetus. This can lead to the fetus not growing as it should and may cause organ damage. There's also a greater chance of miscarriage (when the fetus passes away) if the mother's a smoker.  


Smoking can also lead to the fetus being born earlier, we call this being premature. Being born premature can increase the risk (likelihood) of illness and disability.


Image of alcohol


Alcohol can also pass from the mother's blood to the fetus through the placenta. Alcohol is broken down in the liver, but a developing fetus can't handle this exposure to alcohol, normally because the liver is one of the last organs to develop. 

Alcohol can affect the fetus' development and may even lead to organ damage. The baby may also be born prematurely, and in more serious cases it can even lead to miscarriage.


Image of medicines


Illegal drugs like cannabis, cocaine and heroin can also have serious consequences on a developing fetus. Often, drugs have other unknown substances mixed with them - these can pass through the placenta from the mother to the fetus via the placenta. Similar to the effects of smoking and drinking alcohol, the development of organs such as the brain and heart can be affected and also cause premature birth and miscarriage.


In this activity, we will look at how maternal lifestyle affects the fetus.

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