January is Birth Defects Prevention Month. One in 33 babies are affected by a birth defect each year, though most are not known until after the baby and mother leave the hospital. While some defects such as cleft lip or spina bifida can be diagnosed during pregnancy, others go unnoticed as they may not affect the outward appearance of a baby or show little to no symptoms at first.
Cause of Birth Defects
Some birth defects are caused by genetic factors, and there may be tests to diagnose these. If you or your partner have a family history of birth defects or other genetic disorders, it’s important to communicate this to your doctor during pregnancy. This will allow for more insight during testing, and assist in finding a potential answer.
The cause of many birth defects is unknown. However, there is strong evidence that outside factors can affect the development of the baby, and therefore there are things pregnant women can do to keep themselves and their babies healthy. (See below and also go to www.cdc.gov/pregnancy)
Preparing for a Healthy Pregnancy
If you’re planning on getting pregnant, communicate this with your doctor. Take 400 mcg of folic acid (a vitamin) every day before and during pregnancy.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, street drugs, raw meat, and unpasteurized milk. Speak with your doctor before taking medications or supplements during pregnancy (over the counter or prescription). Have regular prenatal visits with your obstetrician. Eat a healthy balanced diet and avoid excessive mercury in the diet (found in some fish). Wash your hands regularly to avoid getting sick and check the www.cdc.gov website for travel alerts or information on how to avoid certain viruses that can cause serious health problems for the baby (such as Zika virus). Make sure that you are fully vaccinated against illnesses that can harm you or the baby, including receiving the influenza vaccine.
All Babies are Beautiful
If your child does have a birth defect, we are here to help and we will work in coordination with any specialists needed to care for your child. If you have questions, please let us know.