Although it is not possible to prevent all birth defects , many of them can be prevented and it is possible to reduce the chance that children will be born with these defects.
One in 30 babies is born with a birth defect or congenital defect . This is a problem that occurs while the baby is developing inside her mother’s body.
There are many types of defects, among the most common are cleft lip and palate, extra or stuck fingers, spina bifida, small or deformed limbs, congenital heart disease …
What are congenital anomalies?
Congenital anomalies form a heterogeneous group of pathologies of prenatal origin, most of them being of low frequency.
Congenital anomalies can be structural or functional. The former involve morphological alterations, affecting some tissue, organ or group of organs of the body, such as those just mentioned. Getting pregnant in March: pros, cons and when your baby will be born.
On the other hand, functional congenital anomalies are those that interrupt biological processes worse than they do not imply a change of form; they involve metabolic, hematological, immune system alterations… Some examples are: congenital hypothyroidism, intellectual disability, decreased muscle tone, blindness, deafness…
Congenital malformations can also be classified according to the organs or systems they affect, so we speak of congenital malformations of the nervous system, the circulatory system, the respiratory system, the digestive system, the face and neck, the genital organs, of the urinary system, of the muscular system…
The origin of many of these anomalies is unknown , and there is also talk of a large and complex set of different causes. But it is known that the effects produced by the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, certain medications, radiation, infections such as rubella and cytomegalovirus or maternal diseases such as epilepsy and diabetes increase the risk of congenital anomalies.
How to avoid birth defects
Why some babies form differently in the womb is a mystery. However, there are some things that pregnant women can do to avoid birth defects in their baby or reduce their chances, mainly by staying healthy and avoiding certain dangers. There is also advice for women who are not yet pregnant but plan to be soon.
- Eat well during pregnancy and before pregnancy. Eating enough good food gives strength, prevents infections, develops a healthy baby and helps prevent complications during childbirth, heavy bleeding… The father’s diet before pregnancy is also important to avoid defects in the baby .
- Folic acid . You have to make sure you eat foods that have folic acid and the gynecologist will give us a supplement with this component. For women who are planning to become pregnant and for pregnant women, supplementation with a daily pharmacological dose of folic acid is recommended.
- Iodine. Iodine is also important since iodine deficiency during pregnancy and early childhood can cause hypothyroxinemia that negatively affects the developing brain. The recommendation of supplements is suggested in those pregnant women who do not reach the recommended amounts of iodine with their diet.
- Avoid all medicines and drugs during pregnancy ( even those sold without a prescription ) unless you are sure that they will not harm the baby. Drugs have a close relationship with birth defects in the baby .
- Not a drop of alcohol. It is not known how small amount of alcohol starts to harm a baby, so it is best to avoid it altogether. It is still necessary to make the population aware of the risks of alcohol in pregnancy since it is common to say that “for a drink nothing happens”.
- Without tobacco . Not only should the pregnant woman not smoke to prevent birth defects, but neither should her surroundings and she should avoid staying in places with smoke.
- Avoid contact with pesticides, chemicals and other poisons . If someone in the family or close person uses pesticides or poisons, they should wash their own clothes separately and prevent the pregnant woman from being exposed to chemicals.
- If one or more children have already been born with a birth defect, it is more likely that they will have another, so genetic counseling is necessary and the gynecologist will probably indicate that it is better not to have more.
- During pregnancy, stay away from people with rubella or chickenpox if they have never had it before and are not vaccinated. You must try to be up to date with your vaccination before becoming pregnant and there are also recommended and safe vaccines during pregnancy.
- Having syphilis or herpes during pregnancy can cause the baby to be born with birth defects. If these diseases are suspected, an examination should be done and sexual infections treated as soon as possible.
- Go to a health care professional before you get pregnant so they can advise you on diet and exercise, check your partner’s medical history, risk of birth defect, mother’s immunization status…
- After 35 or 40 years there is a higher risk of chromosomal abnormalities, therefore planning pregnancy at earlier ages contributes to the prevention of these.
- Women with a chronic illness should also plan their pregnancy and in these cases a preconception visit to the gynecologist is especially important .