The multiple stages of pregnancy allow for a fetus to grow and develop into a healthy baby, but sometimes, typically during the first trimester of pregnancy, problems can arise. Birth defects are more common than you may realize, affecting nearly one of every 33 babies born in the United States of America. Birth defects can be mild or severe. Regular, consistent, and proper care during pregnancy is paramount to test for potential problems. Testing allows your doctor to get an early warning about potential birth defects and may be the advance notice needed to help eliminate or reduce problems. Some common birth defects such as cleft lip are easily spotted. Birth defects such as heart defects or hearing loss require testing to discover. Comprehensive testing using echocardiograms and x-rays or even hearing tests may be necessary.
Birth defects can affect a fetus at any stage of development and can affect nearly any area of the body as well from physical characteristics to functioning. With this in mind, it is critically important for all pregnant mothers to receive regular check-ups with their doctor all through their pregnancy.
While some birth defects can occur under ideal pregnancy conditions, others may develop due to a mother's habits during the pregnancy. Smoking, drinking, using any street drugs, or using pharmaceutical drugs not prescribed by your OB-GYN is strictly forbidden during the entire pregnancy as anything that a mother ingests, inhales, or takes into her body is transferred to her baby.
Let's consider some of the conditions and situations that might increase the risk for birth defects.
NOTE: It is important to remember that birth defects do not always follow the rules, so a mother may have one or more of the risks listed above and develop a perfectly healthy baby. But a mother may have none of the risks listed above and still have a baby with birth defects. For this reason, as there is no guarantee either way, it is very important that a pregnancy be supervised and monitored every step of the way by an OB-GYN or primary care doctor. Early detection of potential birth defects is the best way to mitigate any potential problems.
If birth defects do arise, doctors and/or surgeons may implement various treatment plans to strive to improve or eliminate the birth defect, or correct it. There are many approaches, a few of which are listed below.
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