Birth defects are functional or structural abnormalities present at birth which cause mental or physical disability.
About 1 out of every 33 babies in the US is born with a birth defect. That means almost 120,000 babies are affected by birth defects per year. Also, London has the highest prevalence of Down’s syndrome (34 per 10,000 babies). Worldwide, an estimated 7.9 million infants are born with serious birth defects.
There are over 4,000 different types of birth defects, ranging from minor ones which need no treatment to serious ones which require surgical or medical treatment.
There are two main types of birth defects:
- functional – are related to a problem with how a body system works.
- structural – are related to a problem with body parts. They include problems that are related to the growth, neural tube defects, heart defects, and physical problems which include cleft lip or cleft palate.
Birth defects can be a result of:
- infections during pregnancy;
- genetics – one or more genes might have a change or mutation which results in them not working correctly. Also, a gene or part of the gene might be missing.
- drug abuse – alcohol is the most frequently used drug which causes birth defects.
- radiation during the first 3 months of pregnancy can cause birth defects, like – spina bifida, microcephaly, or blindness;
- exposure to certain chemicals and medications;
- smoking tobacco;
- a diet rich in food additives.
The risk factor of delivering a child with birth defects increases under any of the following conditions:
- use of certain high-risk drugs, like – lithium and isotretinoin;
- untreated bacterial or viral infections;
- inadequate prenatal care;
- maternal age of 35 years or older;
- smoking during pregnancy;
- alcohol consumption during pregnancy;
- drug use during pregnancy;
- a family history of birth defects.
Birth defects are unresolved issues from a previous life. It is your choice to have been born this way in this life.
Also, these defects symbolize the fact that you still have to learn, no matter what the lesson is. Try to see your handicap as a chance (of great difficulty) to evolve.
Not all birth defects can be prevented. However, there are things which a woman can do before and during pregnancy to reduce her risk of having a child born with birth defects:
Have A Normal BMI
If possible, be sure any medical problems are under control, before becoming pregnant. Some medical issues which increase the risk of birth defects include obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Avoid exposure to alcohol and drugs (both legal and illegal) during pregnancy since they can be harmful to your unborn baby.
Reduce Your Stress
Some stress is normal, but if stress becomes constant, the effects on your baby and you could be lasting.
Do Not Smoke
Babies born to mothers who smoke tobacco tend to be lower birthweight. Moreover, a regular exposure to secondhand smoke can negatively affect the developing fetus.
Have a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes (like – red kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, navy beans – which are all rich in folate), and seeds.
Spend Time Outside + Exercise
Taking a daily walk during the day will boost your levels of vitamin D. Some studies link a deficiency in vitamin D to a higher risk of pregnancy complications like – preterm birth, gestational diabetes, and low birth weight.