January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month

Baby's hand in mothersOne 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, most go unnoticed as they may not affect the outward appearance of a baby or show little to no symptoms at first.

What are the causes of birth defects?

Determining the cause of a birth defect is not always easy. In the event that it is caused by genetic factors, a doctor can conduct a genetic test to decide if a mutation is to blame. 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. 

When genetics are ruled out, the cause of most birth defects is unknown. However, there is strong evidence that outside factors can affect the development of the baby. These factors include smoking, consumption of alcohol, drug use, taking certain medications, and exposure to toxic chemicals and viruses during the pregnancy.

Common birth defects include:

Preparing for a Healthy Pregnancy

If you’re planning on getting pregnant, communicate this with your doctor and be aware of the risk factors such as alcohol consumption and use of certain medications. Steering clear of these activities can assist in the prevention of birth defects. 

Be sure to take a daily multivitamin prior to and during pregnancy. It has also been recommended that taking folic acid before getting pregnant and throughout the pregnancy has decreased the chances of birth defects.

Learning Your Baby has a Birth Defect

No one wants to hear that their baby has a birth defect, but do know that most are common and oftentimes treatable.

In addition to your pediatrician, there are many other resources to help during this time, such as support groups. This gives you the opportunity to talk with mothers who have experienced or are experiencing the same situations as you and to gain helpful advice. 

Pediatrics by the Sea provides prenatal care to expectant mothers, as well as special care for high-risk pregnancies both during pregnancy and as the child grows. We are here for you throughout the entire process and are ready to assist in ensuring your baby is as healthy as possible.