LivingHow to prevent birth defects in pregnancy

How to prevent birth defects in pregnancy

Although it is not possible to prevent all birth defects , many of them can be prevented and it is possible to reduce the chance that children will be born with these defects.

One in 30 babies is born with a birth defect or congenital defect . It is a problem that occurs while the baby is developing inside its mother’s body.

There are many types of defects, among the most common are a split lip and palate, additional or glued fingers, spina bifida, small or deformed limbs, congenital heart disease …

What are congenital anomalies?

Congenital anomalies form a heterogeneous group of pathologies of prenatal origin, most of them of low frequency.

Congenital anomalies can be structural or functional. The former involve morphological alterations, affecting some tissue, organ or set of organs in the body, such as the ones we have just mentioned.

On the other hand, functional congenital anomalies are those that interrupt biological processes worse than do not imply a change in shape; involve metabolic, hematological, immune system alterations … Some examples are: congenital hypothyroidism, intellectual disability, decreased muscle tone, blindness, deafness …

Congenital malformations can also be classified according to the organs or systems they affect, we then speak of congenital malformations of the nervous system, the circulatory system, the respiratory system, the digestive system, the face and neck, the genital organs, the urinary system, the muscular system …

The origin of many of these anomalies is unknown , and there is also talk of a wide and complex set of different causes. But it is known that the effects produced by the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, certain medications, radiation, infections such as rubella and cytomegalovirus or maternal diseases such as epilepsy and diabetes increase the risk of congenital anomalies.

How to avoid birth defects

Why some babies form differently in the mother’s womb is a mystery. However, there are some things that pregnant women can do to prevent their baby’s birth defects or reduce their chances of developing them, mainly by staying healthy and avoiding certain dangers. There are also tips for women who are not yet pregnant but plan to be soon.

  • Eat well during pregnancy and before pregnancy. Eating enough good foods gives strength, prevents infections, develops a healthy baby and helps prevent complications during delivery, heavy bleeding … The father’s diet before pregnancy is also important to avoid defects in the baby.
  • Folic acid You have to make sure you eat foods that have folic acid and the gynecologist will give us a supplement with this component. For women who are planning to become pregnant and for pregnant women, supplementation with a pharmacological dose of folic acid daily is recommended.
  • Iodine. Iodine is also important, since an iodine deficiency during pregnancy and early childhood can lead to hypothyroxinemia that negatively affects the developing brain. The recommendation of supplements is suggested in those pregnant women who do not reach the recommended amounts of iodine with their diet.
  • Avoid all medicines and drugs during pregnancy (even those that are sold without a prescription) unless you are sure they will not harm the baby. Drugs have a close relationship with the birth defects of the baby.
  • Not a drop of alcohol. It is not known what minimum amount of alcohol starts to harm the baby, so it is best to avoid it completely. It is still necessary to educate the population about the risks of alcohol in pregnancy, since it is common to say that “nothing happens for a drink”.
  • No tobacco . Not only should the pregnant woman not smoke to prevent congenital defects, but neither should her environment and she should avoid staying in smoky places.
Both alcohol and tobacco have been widely linked to birth defects in babies. Do not consume them.
  • Avoid contact with pesticides, chemicals, and other poisons . If someone in the family or close to you uses pesticides or poisons, you should wash your own clothes separately and prevent the pregnant woman from being exposed to chemicals.
  • If one or more children have already been born with a birth defect, it is more likely that they have another, so genetic counseling is necessary and the gynecologist is likely to indicate that it should not have more.
  • During pregnancy you should stay away from people with rubella or chickenpox if they have never had it before and are not vaccinated. You have to try to be up to date with the vaccination before you get pregnant and there are also recommended and safe vaccines during pregnancy.
  • Having syphilis or herpes during pregnancy can cause the baby to be born with birth defects. If there are suspicions of these diseases, an examination and sexual infections should be treated as soon as possible.
  • See a health care professional before getting pregnant so they can advise on diet and exercise, check the couple’s medical history, risk of birth defects, mother’s vaccination status …
  • After 35 or 40 years there is a greater risk of chromosomal abnormalities, therefore planning pregnancy at an earlier age contributes to their prevention.
  • Women with a chronic disease should also plan the pregnancy and in these cases the preconception visit to the gynecologist is especially important.

Photos | iStock, Thinkstock

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