Pregnant mums have many fears about their babies, but one of those many fears is having birth defects, which are not only a blow to the baby’s quality of life but the parents’ pockets too. Some might need therapy, some might need surgery, and some might even need to put mums in the worst position of their lives – whether to terminate their pregnancy or not.
But, what if there was a way we can avoid them?
Our advances in technology and medicine have allowed us to determine the causes of most birth defects, therefore making them avoidable. But in order for us to better address or avoid these birth defects, we must first understand why they happen in the first place.
In this article, you will learn all that you need to know about birth defects and ways to avoid them. So, keep reading.
What Is a Birth Defect?
From the word “defect,” a birth defect is a problem in a baby’s body part or bodily functions. Ultrasounds can detect birth defects as early as a mum’s pregnancy. You can also recognise birth defects once the child ages.
When Birth Defects Can Be Detected
Most birth defects happen during the first and second months of pregnancy. Usually, by the end of your second month, the baby’s heart is fully-developed already. It’s at this point your doctor will check for congenital heart defects. Another example would be spina bifida, a neural tube defect often detected at the end of the second month of pregnancy.
Birth defects that concern the extremities of the child, their ears, and their eyes occur during the second trimester of pregnancy. That’s why during this stage of your pregnancy, your ultrasound technician will look around for possible defects in your baby’s arms, legs, eyes, and ears.
Some birth defects have unknown causes; for some, genetics is the cause. Birth defects affect about 100,000 babies every year, so it’s not such an uncommon case.
The kinds of birth defects also vary in terms of their mildness and severity. Some birth defects don’t affect the child’s quality of life while some do. To help you better understand these birth defects, let’s have a run-down.
Most Common Birth Defects
This is the general term that doctors use to refer to any defect pertaining to a baby’s heart. So, if there is anything wrong with the way the baby’s heart pumps if there are any holes in the baby’s heart or if there is a problem with the flow of blood through the baby’s circulatory system, the baby has a congenital heart defect.
The cause of congenital heart defects is sometimes purely genetic, sometimes a combination of genetics and environmental factors (e.g. mum’s environment or diet). Roughly 1 in every 110 babies will have congenital heart defects.
This is a birth defect that occurs in baby boys where the urethra is situated on the underside of their penises instead of its tip. 1 in every 200 boys has hypospadias, and the only treatment for this birth defect is surgery. Otherwise, the child struggles with urination throughout their life. Research has no conclusive findings about the cause of this birth defect, but their educated guesses point to genetics and fertility treatments.
Ventricular Septal Defect
This is a very specific heart defect that happens to 1 in every 240 births. This defect is more familiarly known as a hole in the heart, specifically on the wall that separates the left and right ventricles. Small holes decrease in size in time or close on their own, while bigger ones will need to be resolved with surgery.
You may have heard about this type of birth defect on your social media, because kids with clubfoot are often in the news. Essentially, clubfoot is a physical defect on a child’s feet. They turn inwards instead of forward. About 1 of every 593 babies are born with this birth defect.
There are no known causes of clubfoot. Experts can only speculate that the birth defect is caused by both genetics and environmental factors. Because causes are unknown, specific ways to prevent the defect are also unknown. At best, physicians advise mums to take excellent self-care during pregnancy.
And treatment can range from therapy to surgery.
Occurring once in every 700 births, Down Syndrome is the most familiar birth defect that people know about. Unlike the birth defects previously discussed, Down Syndrome has no treatment or cure, because this birth defect has both physical and developmental impacts. The most that parents can get to help their children with down syndrome is support.
Pulmonary Valve Atresia and Stenosis
The valve where the blood flows from our hearts to our lungs is very important; otherwise, our respiratory system suffers because it’s not getting the blood it needs to survive.
In some babies, this valve does not develop at all or is too narrow for blood to flow into. This is what’s known as Pulmonary Valve Atresia or Stenosis, occurring in 1 in every 1,052 births. There is no known cause for Pulmonary Valve Atresia and Stenosis as well.
Cleft Palate of Cleft Lip
This is another pretty common birth defect. If you have seen an individual whose lips seem to be inc0mplete or reach their noses, then you’ve seen what a cleft palate or cleft lip is. 1 in every 1,687 babies has a cleft palate or cleft lip.
Like the aforementioned birth defects, genetics or environmental factors are commonly the causes of cleft palate.
Atrioventricular Septal Defect
This is a specific congenital heart defect that occurs both on the walls of the baby’s heart and its valves. There could be multiple factors causing this type of birth defect, and it affects 1 in every 1,859 babies. The only way to treat this birth defect is surgery.
How to Prevent Birth Defects During Pregnancy
We know that the rate of babies being born with these birth defects is low, but it can’t hurt to do everything that you can to avoid your baby from getting any of these birth defects. Here are our recommendations:
Drink 400mg of Folic Acid every day
You prevent your baby from getting neural or heart-related birth defects when you regularly take your folic acid. So make sure to take your daily intake.
Always check with your doctor before taking meds
The medicines that mums take can cause birth defects, so best if you consult your doctor before popping any kind of pill.
Make sure you are updated on your vaccinations
This is to ensure you are healthy enough to host your baby’s growth and development. A healthy mum often leads to a healthy baby, so talk to your doctor about the vaccinations that are needed during pregnancy.
Again, this is general self-care or healthcare. If you pack your body with food that is filled with nutrients and is good for you, you ensure that every part of your baby’s body is fully developed.
Avoid harmful substances during pregnancy
Eating healthy is not enough though. If you’ve restricted yourself to eating only healthy food but still smoke or drink, then those healthy food choices will be for nothing. So, prevent these substances even after giving birth, so you can set a good example for
your kids as well.
There you have it. 8 of the most common birth defects and tips on how you can prevent them during your pregnancy. Now, remember, even if your child comes out with a birth defect, you should still love them no matter what. A birth defect is just a birth defect. Your child is so much more.
If you’re worried about your unborn baby’s condition or have any concerns about your pregnancy, do not hesitate to consult your doctor.
Here at theAsianparent Singapore, it’s important for us to give information that is correct, significant, and timely. But this doesn’t serve as an alternative for medical advice or medical treatment. theAsianparent Singapore is not responsible for those that would choose to drink medicines based on information from our website. If you have any doubts, we recommend consulting your doctor for clearer information.