Lisa M. Cannon a specialist surgeon from Chicago Illinois discusses birth defects. Birth defects are obviously a very distressing issue. They are also a lot more common than you may imagine as well as being critical and costly. These are the top ten things that you need to remember when thinking about birth defects.

  1. They are much more common than you think effecting around three percent of babies in the US annually and there is not always a family genetic issue or history of any condition.
  2. They are costly not only in emotion and time but also financially. Each year they can cost up to just under three billion dollars.
  3. Birth defects often cause critical conditions and account for twenty percent of deaths before the age of 1. Ones that survive longer can have issues with basic tasks such as movement, learning and talking.
  4. Folic acid is a must when pregnant and can help prevent babies being born with birth defects. Fifty percent of births in the US are unplanned and this adds to the need for folic acid, especially if the woman has drank and smoked before she knew she was pregnant.
  5. Many birth defects are not diagnosed until after a baby leaves the hospital, but most are found within the first year of life.
  6. Some birth defects are recognised when the baby is in the womb through an ultrasound or amniocentesis procedure. Heart defects and spina bifida can be detected as well as downs syndrome. Early diagnosis allows people to make informed decisions and to set plans in place if change is required.
  7. Birth defects can be caused by many things, genetic only accounts for a small number; other factors are things in the environment or our behaviors such as smoking, drinking and drug use in some.
  8. Therefore, some birth defects can be prevented and some can’t. Check-ups, folic acid control of own medical conditions e.g. diabetes can all help. As well as getting vaccinations and not using drugs or alcohol.
  9. There is no guaranteed safe amount of alcohol to drink when pregnant, so the best plan is to avoid it altogether. There are a range of diseases called fetal alcohol spectrum disorders which can occur when a mother drinks through her pregnancy. The effects can include behavioral and physical problems and they are one hundred percent avoidable if the Mother doesn’t drink whilst pregnant.
  10. An unborn child is not always as protected from the outside world as it needs to be. The placenta that attaches child and mother is not as strong as it may sometimes need to be, especially if alcohol and drugs are used or if the Mother has illnesses which she doesn’t keep under control. Nutritious food is also needed to protect the unborn baby.

The good news is that there is lots of work being done on the effects on the unborn fetus and more and more is being learned about the effects and preventative measures. There are also so many wonderful charities and support groups that would be the utmost help to you if you found yourself in this position.