Healthy living choices can prevent ‘Birth defects’

Most birth defects are present within the first three months of pregnancy

You are pregnant…great news. Are you worried whether your baby will be born with birth defects. Worldwide, at least 7.9 million people are born each year with a birth defect.  85% of the world’s birth defects occur in developing countries. There are more than 7,000 kinds of birth defects that are known to occur. Study finds 400,000 children born with new mutations each year worldwide. Congenital anomalies are responsible for the death of more than 300,000 infants worldwide.  These all news kind of scares an expectant mother. According to Parents Magazine, 78 percent of expectant mothers rated birth defects as their number one concern.

For many babies born with a birth defect, there is no family history of the condition. Some birth defects like cleft lip or spina bifida are easy to see. Others, like heart defects, are not. – National Birth Defects Prevention Network

Birth defects may affect appearance, organ function, or physical or mental development. They can be minor or severe. Most birth defects are present within the first three months of pregnancy, when the organs are still forming. Some birth defects are harmless, while others require long-term medical treatment. Birth defects have a serious physical and emotional impact, not only on those affected, but also on their families.

Birth defects: what causes it ?

Birth defects can be a result of genetics, lifestyle choices and behaviors, exposure to certain medicines and chemicals, infections during pregnancy, or a combination of these factors. For example spina bifida is a structural birth defect clinically obvious at birth and hemophilia is a functional birth defect that may present clinically only in infancy or childhood and some birth defects, like Fetal Alcohol Syndrome develop in babies because of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Some birth defects can be corrected before or shortly after birth. Severe birth defects, such as cerebral palsy or spina bifida, can cause long-term disability or death.

Children and Birth defects

In India birth defects prevalence varies from 61 to 69.9/1000 live births. Annual birth of Down syndrome babies is around 37,000 taking incidence of down syndrome as 1.4/1000 live birth. In India consanguineous (close relatives) marriages varies from as low as 1% to 4% in the northern region to as high as 40-50% in the southern region. Carrier frequencies for sickle cell hemoglobin ranges from 17% to 30% or more in Indian population.

Risks that increases having a baby with birth defect

  • The parents have another child with a genetic disorder
  • There is a family history of a genetic disorder
  • One parent has a chromosomal abnormality
  • Drug use, alcohol consumption, or smoking during pregnancy
  • Advanced maternal age of 35 years or older
  • Inadequate prenatal care
  •  Unplanned pregnancies
  • Poor maternal nutritional status
  • Consanguineous (close relatives) marriages
  • Untreated viral or bacterial infections, including sexually transmitted infections
  • Use of certain high-risk medications such as isotretinoin (acne/pimple treatment) and lithium

Preventing Birth defects: It’s possible to a great extent

Read moreHealthy living choices can prevent ‘Birth defects’