How to avoid birth defects during pregnancy
Birth defects impact 1 in every thirty-three babies born in the United States each year and are a prevalent, expensive, and serious problem.1 Continue reading to discover more about birth defects and how women may increase the likelihood that they will give birth to a child who is birth defect-free.
The Birth Defects Are Common
A baby with a birth defect is delivered in the US every 4 1/2 minutes. Accordingly, birth abnormalities impact around 120,000 newborns annually.
Birth defects, which can affect practically any area or component of the body (such as the heart, brain, or foot), are structural alterations that are present at birth. They could impact the body's functionality, appearance, or both. Mild to serious birth abnormalities can exist. Which organ or body component is involved and how much it is impacted determines how each child with a birth defect will fare. The anticipated lifespan of a person with a birth defect may or may not be shorter or longer depending on the severity of the issue and which body component is affected.
How to Spot Birth Defects
Before, during, or after birth, a birth defect can be discovered. In the first year of life, most birth abnormalities are discovered. While certain birth defects, like cleft lips, are obvious, others, like heart deformities or hearing loss, require specialized testing, such as x-rays, hearing tests, or echocardiograms (an ultrasound image of the heart).
At any point in the pregnancy, birth abnormalities can happen. In the first three months of pregnancy, when the baby's organs are developing, the majority of birth abnormalities happen. This phase of growth is crucial. Some birth abnormalities do, however, happen later in pregnancy. The tissues and organs continue to grow and develop during the final six months of pregnancy.
We know the reason behind some birth disorders, such as fetal alcohol syndrome. We don't, however, know what causes the majority of birth abnormalities. We believe that a complicated medley of circumstances is to blame for the majority of birth abnormalities. These elements include our surroundings, our habits, and our DNA (information inherited from our parents). However, scientists are still unsure of how these elements could interact to result in birth abnormalities.
While there is still more to be done, previous research has taught us a lot about birth abnormalities. For instance, certain factors, such as the following, may raise the possibility of having a child with a birth defect:
Smoking, using alcohol, or using some medications while pregnant.
Having certain health issues, including obesity or uncontrolled diabetes, both before and during pregnancy.
Taking particular medications, such as isotretinoin (a prescription used to treat severe acne).
The presence of a birth defect in your family. A clinical geneticist or a genetic counselor can help you learn more about your chance of giving birth to a child with a birth defect.
Catching certain diseases during pregnancy, including the cytomegalovirus and Zika virus.
Having a fever higher than 101°F or an elevated body temperature as a result of heat exposure.
Being an older mother, genetic abnormalities are more likely to occur with age.
Even if you run one or more of these risks, a birth defect-free pregnancy is not guaranteed. Women can still give birth to a child with a birth defect even if they do not run any of these risks. It's crucial to discuss risk-reducing measures with your doctor.
Not every birth defect is preventable. However, there are several things a woman may do to improve her chances of having a healthy baby both before and throughout pregnancy:
Make careful to schedule routine visits with your doctor and begin prenatal treatment as soon as you suspect you could be pregnant.
Start taking 400 mcg of folic acid daily for at least a month before trying to conceive.
Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.
If you are taking any medications or are considering taking any, discuss them with a healthcare professional. Medications on prescription, over-the-counter, and dietary or herbal supplements fall under this category. Without first consulting a doctor, never start or stop taking any kind of medication.
Understand how to prevent infections while pregnant.
When you are sick or after receiving a vaccine, be proactive in recognizing and treating fever. Avoid hot tubs, saunas, and other situations that could lead to overheating when using Tylenol® (or store-brand acetaminophen) to treat fevers greater than 101°F.
If at all feasible, wait to get pregnant until any medical conditions are under control. Birth abnormalities may be more likely in people with certain diseases, such as diabetes.
Managing a Birth Defect
In order to survive and develop normally, babies with birth abnormalities may require specialized care and interventions. One way to locate and send children to the appropriate services as early as feasible is through state birth defect tracking programs. To improve outcomes for these infants, early intervention is essential. If your kid was born with a birth defect, speak with your child's doctor about available support and care in your area. Another resource includes geneticists, genetic counselors, and other experts.