If the child you're planning to adopt isn't yet born, whatever information you can gain about the pregnant woman and about the child's prenatal condition is important. Researchers are discovering that prenatal conditions have an enormous impact on children's later mental and physical development.
Here are a few questions to ask about prenatal conditions that can affect a child:
- Is the pregnant woman receiving adequate prenatal care? This means care in the first or early second trimester of her pregnancy, when she should be examined at least monthly by an obstetrician or certified nurse midwife.
- Is the pregnant woman eating right? Is she taking prenatal vitamins?
- Is the birthmother abusing alcohol?
- Is the pregnant woman abusing drugs (legal or illegal)?
- Does the pregnant woman smoke? Smoking while pregnant decreases oxygen delivery to the developing baby and may result in a baby having a lower birth weight at the time of delivery.
- Is the birthmother under severe stress? Is there any domestic violence, either physical or emotional?
Because unborn children receive all their nutrition from their birthmothers, the birthmothers' diet is crucial. Is the pregnant woman eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and dairy products? Is she eating a steady diet of junk food and nothing else?
Physicians advise pregnant women to stop drinking alcohol altogether during the pregnancy; alcohol use can damage the developing fetus. At its most extreme, this damage can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which causes severe neurological damage.
Abuse of illegal drugs (such as marijuana, heroin, and cocaine) during pregnancy can adversely affect the child's physical and mental development. The birthmother's gynecologist probably will check for drugs and hopefully will report any signs of drug use to the agency or attorney. However, this may not be possible because of patient confidentiality unless the birthmother signs a release. Ask the agency or attorney if they obtain such releases.
Also, remember that many legally prescribed medications can be dangerous to a developing fetus and so should not be taken by pregnant women. If the birthmother is getting adequate prenatal care, she will be aware of these restrictions.
What is the birthmother's general emotional and psychological state? Although it's inevitable that an unplanned pregnancy will cause some amount of stress, high levels of depression or anxiety will not be good for her or the developing fetus.