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How to deflect birth defects

Dr Nathaniel Adewole a Consultant Gynaecologist and Obstetrician with the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada says birth defects could be caused through congenital and…

Dr Nathaniel Adewole a Consultant Gynaecologist and Obstetrician with the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada says birth defects could be caused through congenital and acquired factor. “Congenital factors are genetic factors such as infection which a mother has and could lead to an abnormality in the child. While acquired factor could be through the use of drugs or by virtue of consumption of alcohol and other elements during pregnancy. Infection that affects the mother between the third and eight week has led to many birth defects.” Adewole says.

Other causes of birth defects Adewole says are women who have diabetes and become pregnant. Also, women who ignorantly or deliberately take drugs without prescription during pregnancy could lead to deformity of their child. Again, women that get pregnant between the ages of forty and fiftyare more prone to give birth to children with defects.

Defects caused by congenital infection result when a mother gets an infection before or during the pregnancy. Infections that can cause birth defects include rubella, cytomegalovirus, syphilis, and toxoplasmosis. None of these affect 100% of babies whose mothers are infected during pregnancy.

Some congenital birth defects are abnormality such as Down syndrome,autism cleft lip amongst others. Down syndrome is a group of abnormalities that occur in children who are born with an extra (third) copy of chromosome number 21 in their cells. Children with the syndrome have mental retardation and distinctive facial and other physical features; these problems are often accompanied by heart defects and other health problems. Cleft lip for instance occurs when the tissues of the mouth or lip don’t form properly during fatal development. A cleft lip is a long opening between the upper lip and the nose. A cleft palate is an opening between the roof of the mouth and the nasal cavity.

Unfortunately, it is still impossible to prevent all possible birth defects. But many tips for preventing birth defects successfully help to gain the happiness of having the healthy baby. Awareness and education are the first steps to preventing birth defects.

The health of the child during the whole life will depend on the success of delivery and absence of birth defects, so it is the item of high importance to use all available methods to prevent the possible problems. The 80% of birth defects are connected with the pregnancy running.

Dr Adewole says for women to avoid birth defects in their children they should take the following steps.

•        Don’t delay pregnancy for too long.

•     Avoid the use of drugs without medical prescription.

•        Women who have diabetes and other diseases should be treated properly prior to pregnancy.

•        Disease of the central nervous system if not controlled can lead to abnormality.   

•        For women that are on drugs for epilepsy, hypertension and other diseases, they should consult their doctor to change their drugs if need be before conception.    

•        Generally women must be careful what drugs they take in the first three months of conception. They must consult their obstrician before they take any drug.

•        The first and foremost tip is maintaining preconception health; eating well balanced and nutritional meals, and taking a multivitamin daily that includes the recommended 400 mcg of folic acid.

•        Avoid all activities that could potentially lead to birth defects including alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, and caffeine.

•        And women should generally book early because some disease may arise during pregnancy, there is need for early antenatal registration to help detect and avoid some of these problems.  Routine prenatal screening can do two major things: it can help determine if the mother has an infection or other condition that is dangerous to the fetus, and it can help determine if the fetus has certain birth defects. Defects that may be detected through prenatal screening include: neural tube defects (spina bifida, anencephaly) Down syndrome cleft lip or palate.

It’s important to remember that screening identifies only the possibility that a baby has a defect. It’s possible to give birth to a healthy baby after a screening test shows that a defect may be present. You aren’t required to have any prenatal screening; talk to your doctor about any tests he or she thinks you should have.

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