Birth defects are problems that some babies have when they are in womb that lead to physical or mental disabilities. Birth defects are known as the number one cause of death for infants during the first year of life. According to the figures from the March of Dimes, approximately 1 out of every 33 babies in the United States has a birth defect.
Common birth defects
There are more than 4,000 different kinds of birth defects, which can be classified as structural or functional/developmental birth defect.
Structural birth defect is known as the problem in which a baby is born with a part of the body that is missing or malformed. Here are some common structural birth defects:
– heart defects
– cleft lip or palate
– spina bifida
Functional/developmental birth defect refers to the problem in which a part or a system of the body doesn’t work body properly. Functional or developmental birth defects include metabolic defects, sensory problems, and nervous system problems.
Causes of birth defects
– Environmental Causes
During pregnancy, if a mother gets infected with certain viruses such as toxoplasma, rubella and chickenpox, her baby is more likely to suffer from birth defect. At present, many women are aware of those risks and get themselves vaccinated before and during pregnancy to protect their baby from birth defects.
Alcohol, smoking addiction is another possible cause of congenital diseases among babies. Heavy consumption of alcohol during pregnancy may result in deformities of the face, arms, and legs, heart conditions, mental retardation, and fetal growth restriction. Meanwhile, cigarette smoking is known as the cause of fetal growth restriction and premature birth.
The use of certain drugs while pregnant is acknowledged to induce congenital abnormalities. For example, the excessive use of cocaine can lead to miscarriage, fetal growth restriction, and problems with the development of the urinary system or genital tract. Opioid drugs, including heroin or methadone are proved to cause fetal growth restriction, premature birth, and low birth weight.
– Genetic Causes
The parents may pass on genetic abnormalities to their baby. It is impossible to prevent birth defects caused by gene because they occur at fertilization. Genetic abnormalities happen when a gene becomes flawed because of a change.
Prevention of birth defects
As mentioned before, there are some types of congenital abnormalities which can’t be prevented. However, as a mother, the women can do some things to lower the risk of birth defect in your baby.
Before pregnancy, women should:
– Have an up-to-date vaccination
– Check if they have any sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
– Take a multivitamin daily, including 400 mcg of folic acid and other essential B vitamins.
– Avoid unnecessary medicines and ask their doctor if they want to take any medicine
During pregnancy, women should:
– Stop smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke
– Avoid drinking alcohol
– Avoid all illicit drugs
– Do physical exercises on a regular basis
– Take enough rest
– Get early and regular prenatal care
– Maintaining a healthy weight