When a couple conceives, the next few months are full of doctor visits and tests. The purpose of this is to ensure that both the mother-to-be and the child/children. Even though the baby will be put through a lot of screenings immediately after birth, yet, even before the little bundle arrives, there are a bunch of things that a mother-to-be can do to marginalise the possibility of the baby having birth defects.
More often than not, despite a shift in mindsets, many people insist that a birth defect is caused because of not following a certain superstition. For example, it is widely believed that if a woman steps out during an eclipse, one of the risks involves birth defects in the child. Let’s understand that we, as a generation should try to focus on science instead of superstition, and strive to do things medically right to ensure that the baby is born healthy.
Birth defects: An overview
Birth defects are abnormalities that are present at birth, and can vary from being mild to severe. With times changing and new advancements in the healthcare industry, a number of special tests have been found to detect birth defects before the child is born. But in some cases, defects are detected later, which could have a number of reasons unknown.
Types of birth defects
There are more than 3000 birth defects that are known, and fall under various categories. These could be structural, genetic, or defects caused due to the mother’s health condition, food and drug intake, or an infectious disease.
Structural defects are those which have some parts of the baby’s body either deformed, or could have an extra growth. It is not just confined to just an extra growth, but could also have internal organ defects that show up visibly.
Heart defects are the most common type. Although some may be mild, some of them require surgical corrections for a better life. Apart from heart defects, neural tube defects are also quite a common problem among those who are born with structural defects. Neural tube defects are a result of the coverings of the spine or brain do not close properly.
Genetic defects are usually caused by errors in one or more genes that are passed on by either of the parents. There are mostly inherent defects, caused by a damaged or a missing chromosome, or a combination of factors, which may not have special reasons to occur. Chromosomal mismatches usually are a result of certain mineral and nutritive deficiencies in the mother.
Now that we’ve had a fair understanding of how birth defects occur and the most common types of defects that we see, let’s see if there are ways to turn around the possibility of having birth defects.
Are there ways to prevent birth defects?
Birth defects are not something that can be simply treated like other problems. Prevention is possible, but not beyond a certain level. This is because we do not have control over the way the baby is formed. So reducing the risk is the only way to prevent birth defects in an unborn child. Here are few ways:
What you should avoid?
Avoid alcohol: Alcohol intake during can cause the baby to have delayed milestones, and also can cause a miscarriage.
Quit smoking: Smoking tobacco increases the risk of premature birth, miscarriages, cleft lip & palate and even SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) in many cases.
Speak to your doctor about the medications: Some drugs that you might take could be strong in doses. These drugs carry a high risk of birth defects.
Avoid exposing yourself to environmental toxins: There are many environmental toxins present in the form of solvents. It is important to be cautious about what products you use or are exposing yourself to.
Preparing for your baby
Most birth defects occur during the first trimester (in the first three months) of pregnancy. So the best way to avoid any risk is to plan your pregnancy and speak to your doctor before you conceive. There are certain things which need to be closely assessed so that the chances of being at a risk is nullified.
Planning a pregnancy helps in breaking habits like smoking and alcohol which are the most common reasons for birth defects in babies. Pre-pregnancy screenings and tests also help in case you have a strong family history of chronic illnesses that could lead to birth defects in the baby.
Folic acid is an essential nutrient that aid in the development of the baby’s organs and especially the brain. Taking folic acid supplements prior to your conception, and eating foods that contain folic acid are best to reduce the risk of birth defects in your baby. For Folic acid, 0.4 mg is the recommended dosage along with a healthy and balanced diet for all women, starting from three months in advance till the first three months of gestation is completed.
Like it is said: “Prevention is better than cure”, these are measures that can help you have a happy and healthy little munchkin!
About the hospital:
Ankura Hospitals is a chain of super-specialty hospitals for women and children in the cyber city of Hyderabad. Set up in the year 2011 in KPHB, near Hitech Railway Station, the Ankura Hospitals family has today spread its wings to Secunderabad, Khammam and Vijayawada.