Birth Defects Awareness Month
January is Birth Defects Awareness month. While some causes are preventable, many are not. Learn more about what causes birth defects and who is at higher risk before and during pregnancy.
Birth Defect Causes
- Genetics. One or more genes might have a change or mutation that results in them not working properly, such as in Fragile X syndrome. Similarly, a gene or part of the gene might be missing.
- Infections. Women who get certain infections such as Zika virus during pregnancy are at higher risk for having a child with birth defects. Zika virus is linked with the birth defect where the brain and skull are smaller than normal. Zika infection in pregnancy is linked to other structural problems with the brain as well.
- Chromosomal Issues. In some cases, a chromosome or part of a chromosome is missing resulting in Turner syndrome. This happens when a female is missing an X chromosome. Other birth defects result from having an extra chromosome, such as in Klinefelter syndrome and Down syndrome.
- Exposure to medications, chemicals, or other agents during pregnancy. Mothers who take thalidomide have a greater chance of having a child with birth defects. Other infections include exposure to rubella and toxic chemicals such as hydrocarbons.
Who is at risk of having a baby with birth defects?
Certain factors might increase the probability of having a child with a birth defect. These include:
- Having certain medical conditions, such as obesity or uncontrolled diabetes
- Taking certain medicines
- Smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking recreational drugs during pregnancy
- Having someone in your family with a birth defect.
- Being an older mother, typically over the age of 34 years.
How are birth defects diagnosed?
Health care providers can diagnose some birth defects during pregnancy. They do so using prenatal testing. That’s why it’s important to receive regular prenatal care.
Other birth defects may not be found until after the baby is born. Providers may find them through newborn screening. Some defects like clubfoot, are detectable immediately. Other times, the health care provider may not discover a defect until later in life, when the child shows symptoms.
If you are expecting, let us care for you during your pregnancy and prepare you for life with your new baby. Contact our Maternity and Childbirth center to schedule your first appointment or call us (580) 353-6790.
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Medline Plus- https://medlineplus.gov/birthdefects.html