What are the most common birth defects?
Congenital heart defects affect one in every 110 births. Any structural heart tissue defect is included in this. Hypospadias is a male defect where the opening of the urethra is located at the underside of the penis. A small hole in the lower septum of the heart causes the ventricular septal defect. Club foot, Down’s syndrome, has extra copied chromosome 21. Cleft lip with cleft palates and limb defects are other common birth defects.
When do these birth defects occur?
Most defects occur during the first 3 months of pregnancy. This is the time when the baby’s structural development takes place. In the second month of pregnancy arms, legs, fingers eyes, and ears are formed. By week 6, brain and spinal cord development takes place. Spina bifida occurs at this point. A baby’s heart begins to develop at conception and is fully formed in the mother’s womb by 8 weeks. Congenital heart defects develop by 8 weeks of pregnancy.
What causes birth defects?
Though there may not be an answer for every birth defect, some are complex and few are unknown. A certain combination of factors is possible. An abnormal gene or chromosome is passed down from parent to child, as in sickle cell or thalassemia. A folate deficiency can increase the risk for spina bifida and other spinal cord disorders. Age and pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes and the age of the mother can influence birth defects.
How are birth defects diagnosed?
Prenatal ultrasound tests by 11 to 14 weeks, detection of extra amniotic fluid, March 3 is World’s Birth Defects day. Every year, about 3 to 6 of infants are born with a serious birth defect. Birth defects can affect babies regardless of where they are born, their socioeconomic status, or their race or ethnicity. From a single fertilized egg to millions of specialized cells constitutes a human being. It is not surprising that birth defects are common. Anatomy scan by 20 weeks and fetal echocardiogram are important tests. Genetic screening, cell-free fetal DNA testing, amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling, prenatal and postnatal MRI, developmental milestones, and proper newborn examination can diagnose birth defects. Your doctor would decide which test is appropriate for you.
How to prevent birth defects?
Avoid exposure to unnecessary drugs of any discipline, including allopathy, during pregnancy. Folic acid is a must. Management of fever, anaemia, use of antibiotics, and painkillers should be done with utmost care. The emphasis should be on the prevention of infections at any cost. If you are diabetic or have hypertension or thyroid disorders or any familial illness, please inform your doctor. A preconception discussion is necessary. Avoidance of smoking and alcohol consumption is absolutely essential.
What are the infections in pregnant women that can cause birth defects?
Whether an infection causes a birth defect depends on the age of the fetus at the time of exposure to infection. These include chicken pox, cytomegalovirus, parvovirus, herpes virus, rubella, and syphilis. Hence, what are the important causes of birth defects? Mutation of genes, problems in chromosomes, exposure to medicines, chemicals, or other toxic substances, infections during pregnancy, and lack of certain nutrients in pregnancy can cause birth defects. One cannot find out the cause of birth defects in every baby. To have a baby with birth defects is certainly a huge challenge to the mother and her family. Many cannot be prevented, even by appropriate management during pregnancy. However, if certain precautions are taken as regards exposure to certain drugs and infections during pregnancy, many mothers would have a healthy and normal baby.