Friday, April 20, 2012

Can We Prevent Birth Defects?

This handout photograph released by the National Institute of Child Health (NICH) on April 16, 2012, shows a newly-born child with six legs as he lies in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) ward at a hospital in Karachi. Doctors in Pakistan are fighting to save the life of a baby boy born with six legs because of a rare genetic condition, hospital officials said.AFP PHOTO/NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF CHILD HEALTH (c/o Yahoo!News)

There are bizarre circumstances in life that are hard to explain and understand like birth defects.

When I have seen in Yahoo News this photo of an infant in Pakistan who has been born with six legs, I have felt a sense of sorrow for his condition. Doctors are currently working to find a way to resolve the infant’s physical abnormality through surgery. I do pray that the doctors succeed with the operation so that the baby may have a chance to lead a normal life.

Well, science explains birth defects as structural or developmental abnormalities that are present at childbirth, which cause certain disability. Genetic disorder, chromosomal imbalance or infections during pregnancy are the possible causes of birth defects.

I’m wondering, is there a way of preventing birth defects?

Birth defect prevention is not an easy process as I have learned from some reading around the internet. Health professionals are still in the process of collecting valuable data to come up with a definite and precise answer to this issue.

However, in the website that I have visited, they have found out some vital information that leads to the prevention of birth defects. Allow me to share it here:

  • Folic acid is a B vitamin. Taking folic acid supplements before getting pregnant and in early pregnancy lowers the risk of having a baby with serious birth defects of the brain and spine (neural tube defects). For this reason, all women who can become pregnant should take supplements containing 400 micrograms of folic acid every day.
  • Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause the baby to be born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Pregnant women should not drink alcohol any time during pregnancy.
  • Smoking in the month before getting pregnant and throughout pregnancy increases the chance of premature birth, certain birth defects (such as cleft lip, cleft palate, or both), and infant death. Quitting smoking before getting pregnant is best. However, for women who are already pregnant, quitting as early as possible can still help protect against some health problems.
  • Women who are obese when they get pregnant have a higher risk of having a baby with serious birth defects of the brain and spine (neural tube defects) and some heart defects. Helping women to reach a healthy weight before they get pregnant could prevent birth defects.
  • Poor control of diabetes in pregnant women increases the chance for birth defects, and might cause serious complications for the mother, too. If a woman with diabetes keeps her blood sugar well-controlled before and during pregnancy, she can reduce the chance of having a baby with birth defects.
  • Taking certain medications just before or during pregnancy might cause serious birth defects, but the safety of many medications taken by pregnant women has been difficult to determine. If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, you should not stop taking medications you need or begin taking new medications without first talking with your doctor. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary or herbal products (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/research.html)

I feel that this information is important for everyone to know so I am giving this valuable space here on my blog. Together, with proper knowledge, we can all contribute to the process of preventing birth defects by avoiding dangerous factors that may adversely affect pregnancy.
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