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July 24, 1948


JAMA. 1948;137(13):1132. doi:10.1001/jama.1948.02890470032009

Not many years have passed since one took for granted that the human fetus is optimally protected and maintained in utero. Attempts were not made to influence the environment of the fetus, because whatever abnormalities developed were believed to be due either to intrinsic causes or, in a smaller number of instances, to extrinsic factors beyond comprehension or control. Syphilis was one of the few exceptions to this rule.

As has happened previously when a subject was ripe for exploration, numerous lines of research are now converging, as if by accident, on pathologic conditions of the fetus. Much valuable information has been acquired; now new and old knowledge can be assembled into a systematic scientific structure.1 The field includes two mutually related parts, namely, abnormalities of development and diseases of the fetus.

Some recent advances from clinical studies are of immediate significance to the practicing physician: