Birth defects occur to babies during their development in the uterus. Birth defects usually happen during the first 3 months of a pregnancy. The birth defects can cause changes in the baby’s body functions, or appears or both. Birth defects vary from moderate levels to severe ones. Many babies suffering from birth defects can’t survive. A birth defect can be found soon during gestation, at birth and after birth.
In fact, there are different types of birth defects and people can act to minimize the risk of birth defects.
How To Prevent Birth Defects And Get Rid Of Worries About This Risk
I. An Overview Of Birth Defects
1. What Do You Know About Birth Defects?
A birth defect is functional or structural abnormalities present at birth, which cause mental or physical disabilities. Researches have found thousands of different cases of birth defects. According to scientists, birth defects can lead to deaths to infants just during the first year of their lives.
2. The Factors Causing Birth Defects
There are 3 main factors causing birth defect as follows:
Genetic problems: If one (or more genes) of the baby does not work properly or a part of a gene misses, this may be a cause of a birth defect.
Problems with chromosomes: If a baby have extra chromosomes or misses a part of a chromosome, it may also a cause of a birth defect.
Environmental factors: If a pregnant woman suffers from some diseases like rubella, German measles or she uses alcohol, drugs or smokes during her pregnancy, they may be factors that cause birth defects in her infant.
3. Different Types Of Birth Defects
Basically, there are 2 main types of birth defects: functional birth defects and structural birth defects.
- Functional birth defects are associated with problems like how a body system works or how a part of the body works.
- Structural birth defects (or developmental birth defects) are associated with problems in different body parts. Some physical issues includes cleft palate or cleft lip, some heart defects like missing valves, or misshaped valves and abnormal limbs like a club food. They might also include some neural tube defects like spina bifida, which related to the developments of spinal cord and brain cord.
4. Potential Problems Caused By Birth Defects
Below are some common problems of birth defects that cause developmental disabilities of infants:
Nervous system and brain problems like mental retardation, learning disabilities, language and speech difficulties, behavioral disorders, movement troubles and convulsions. Some cases of birth defects, which affect infant’s nervous system such as: Down syndrome, Autism, Fragile X syndrome and Prader Willi syndrome.
Sensory problems like cataracts, blindness, some other visual problems and various degrees of hearing loss like deafness.
Metabolic disorders related to body process, chemical pathway and reaction like conditions that limit body’s abilities to eliminate waste and harmful chemicals and boost metabolism. There are 2 common metabolic disorders, including hypotyyroidism and phenylketonuria.
Degenerative disorders, including conditions, which might not become obvious at birth but they can make many health problems worse like X-ALD, Rett syndrome, lysosomal disorder and muscular dystrophy.
However, many birth defects can be caused by the combination of many factors at the same time. In some cases, recognized factors of birth defects can affect many parts and processes in the baby’s body and lead to both functional and structural problems.
II. How To Prevent Birth Defects
In some cases, birth defects are not caused by genetic problems or problems of chromosomes, you can prevent factors leading to birth defects in infants. Concretely, you can plan to improve your health during pregnancy with right foods and exercises, avoid bad habit like smoking, using alcohol, plan to prevent infections & diseases and avoid harmful substances.
1. Nutrition And Exercises
– Increase Folic Acid Intake
The Public Health Service, US recommends that women of childbearing age should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. Folic acid is available in many types of foods, especially in leafy green vegetables. The daily intake of iron supplements has been proven to prevent up to 75% of neural tube defects. Though the connection between birth defects and folic acid are obvious, women still forget ingesting adequate amounts of this acid during their pregnancy, especially the first 28 days of their pregnancy.
– Reduce Sugar Intake
The balanced prenatal nutrient plan is a key factor in the development of a healthy baby. Though nutritional deficiencies may have devastating consequences, excess intake of other substances, like sugar, can lead to some negative effects. For instance, diabetes is a problem that can develop in pregnant women. They can develop the resistance to insulin due to some hormonal changes, which are related to the formation of placenta.
Diabetes can also increase the risks for infants, who may be born with a smaller or larger weight than other babies. The children might show their growth abnormalities after birth or have increased risks of obesity their adulthood.
The studies have also shown that premature infants can have higher risks of respiratory difficulties as their lungs haven’t fully matured and their mothers who have sugar addiction are at the risk of getting diabetes following pregnancy.
– Limit Exposure To Mutagens And Teratogens
Doctors and scientists have found that the majority of nutritional deficiencies have negative affects on pregnant women’s health. Recent researches have proven that mutagens and teratogens can have precise impacts on fetal development.
Teratogen is a substance that causes birth defects in humans. This substance is included in cigarette smoke, alcohol, numerous industrial chemicals and certain medications.
These substances may promote birth defects as they alter the actual environment in the womb. Nicotine is contained in cigarette smoke. Pregnant women who get high levels of nicotine during their pregnancies may be linked to a high risk of low birth weight, stillbirth, and palate or cleft lip. Similarly, alcohol is also be considered as a teratogen. The use of this dangerous substance during pregnancy can cause abnormal facial features, fetal organ defects and mental retardation.
Similar to teratogens, mutagens can alter the DNA in reproductive cells of pregnant women and their offspring can be negatively affected. Mutagens exist in different forms, from ionizing radiation to chemical substances. The common teratogens such as alcohol and cigarette smoke also cause mutagenic effects. Thus, limiting exposure to teratogens and mutagens before and during a pregnancy is the key environmental factor to control birth defects.
– Increase Vitamin B12 Intake
Vitamin B12 is naturally founds in foods like fish, meat, eggs, milk and dairy products. According to scientists, vitamin B12 is critical for a good neurological development. Because vegan diet are often lack of this vitamin, so if you follow a vegan diet, you should supply your body with enough this vitamin before making plan to have a new baby.
– Increase Omega-3s Intake
Omega 3 fatty acids are also very helpful to prevent birth defects because DHA and EPA are essential components to develop nervous system and immune system in children. DHA makes up by 20% of cerebral cortex and makes up by 60% of retina so it helps the fetus have a normal development in utero and after birth.
Omega 3 fatty acids are also beneficial in maximizing the intelligence of children and protect them from different brain injuries like pervasive developmental delay, ADHD or autism.
– Increase Fermented Foods & Probiotics Intakes
Beside omega 3 fats, pregnant women should supply their bodies with fermented foods and probiotics for beating bad bacteria and boost good bacteria for a good digestive system in mothers and a good nutritional absorption in babies.
In addition, fermented foods and probiotics also help babies get rid of the development of eczema in childhood, and help them prevent allergies by training their immunity to resist different allergic reactions.
– Increase Vitamin D Intake
Vitamin D is also very important to prevent birth defects. According to recent studies, this vitamin helps protects babies from the risk of autism and help pregnant women control their blood pressure.
– Do Exercises To Maintain Healthy Weight
pregnant women should do exercises like other people to enjoy their healthy pregnancy. Of course there are specialized exercises for pregnant women. This task will help them maintain healthy weight during pregnancy and help their infants get rid of obesity after birth.
I’ve shown you how to prevent birth defects by using right nutrient intakes. Now, let’s learn more about other aspects in birth defect prevention.
2. Avoid Bad Habits
– Avoid Alcohol During Pregnancy
If a pregnant women drink alcohol, her unborn baby definitely also gets this drink. The doctors recommend that pregnant women should not consume alcohol because it can cause FASD in infants. If you plan to get pregnant, quit alcohol first!
– Avoid Smoking During Pregnancy
Not different to alcohol, smoking may cause premature birth, birth defects like cleft plate or cleft lip and even infant death. Therefore, to reduce the risk of birth defects, you should quit smoking before planting to have new baby.
3. Prevent Infections And Diseases
To have a healthy pregnancy, you should pay high attention to infection prevention like avoiding raw foods, washing hands before eating.
Remember to use vaccines to protect you from infections that are effective to lower the risk of birth defects.
However, there are certain medications that are not safe for pregnant women. Hence, you should consider all types of medications, even herbs or ask your doctors before taking them.
4. Avoid Harmful Substances
You may care major factors to prevent birth defects such as diseases, illnesses, infections. But, learning on how to prevent birth defects requires you to care about smaller issues. Exactly, you should pay attention to some harmful substances that you never thought about them like paints, gasoline, pesticides, paint thinner or lead. They are toxics and chemicals or contaminated sources that can affect your pregnant health and your baby health before birth.
I’ve presented an overview of birth defects and different ways on how to prevent birth defects, including using essential nutrients, influences of bad habits and harmful substances on pregnancy, and ways to prevent diseases and infections. It is hoped that you’ve found this article useful and have good preparation for your pregnancy.
I welcome all your comments on this article!