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Birth Defects

Birth Defects - Statistics and Planning

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.

Things to Avoid

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.

Risks

Let's consider some of the conditions and situations that might increase the risk for birth defects.

  • Certain prescription medications may increase the risk for birth defects. Check with your OB-GYN when you are planning your pregnancy to make sure that you discontinue use of any prescription drugs that may be potentially harmful.
  • Obesity carries risks for the mother and also for the fetus. If possible, work with your primary care doctor and devise a weight loss exercise and diet plan to get to a healthy weight before beginning your pregnancy.
  • If there is a history of birth defects in your family, this fact could indicate that your risks for birth defects may be greater. Talk to your doctor about your family history and consider the risks. Your doctor may refer you to a geneticist to dig deeper and get a better handle on your potential risks.
  • Age can have an impact as well. Older women are at an increased risk for birth defects. Any woman over the age of 35 will have an increased risk, and the older you are, the greater the risks typically. Ask your doctor about the risks associated with age and pregnancy.

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.

Treatment

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.

  • Steroid Medications
  • Surgical Procedures
  • Sensory-Motor Therapy
  • Gene Therapy
  • Assistive Devices
  • Cochlear Implants for Hearing Impairment
  • "It is rare to find health professionals who are so willing to educate the patient on what they need to know."

    Clair C. | West Hollywood, CA