Causes and Prevention of Birth Defects

Each year, approximately 150,000 babies are born with birth defects. Birth defects are classified as abnormalities, which are present at the time of birth. This might include abnormalities in terms of body function, structure, or thinking abilities. The severity of birth defects varies. Some children have serious birth defects, which results in the need for constant care, whereas other children are able to grow and function as an adult.

There are many different types of birth defects, some more common. Common birth defects include Downs syndrome, heart defects, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, cleft lip, etc.

Causes of Birth Defects

The cause of birth defects is usually unknown. Because many birth defects occur randomly, doctors and scientists generally have difficulty pinpointing the exact cause. However, the cause of birth defects has been narrowed into three categories: genetic birth defects (parents pass a faulty gene), environmental causes (due to mothers health or exposure to chemicals), and multi-factorial birth defects. The latter is caused by a combination of genetic and environment factors.

Diagnosing Birth Defects

Because of advanced medical screening, the majority of birth defects are detected in the womb. However, there are instances when screening tests are inaccurate. For this matter, it is possible to deliver a healthy baby even when tests indicate a birth defect. Prenatal screening consists of testing for:

� Downs Syndrome
� Heart Defects
� Gastrointestinal Problems
� Kidney Problems
� Cleft Lip
� Tumors
� Metabolism Disorders
� Neural Tube Defects

Moreover, all babies will undergo further testing after birth to check for any abnormalities. This includes tests for:

� Sickle Cell Anemia
� Cystic Fibrosis
� Hearing Loss
� Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia

Unfortunately, these tests can only detect a small number of birth defects. Some problems are not detected until months later.

Preventing Birth Defects

Because some birth defects are preventable, women of childbearing age, and those who plan on becoming pregnant should take the necessary steps to increase the odds of delivering a healthy baby. Before getting pregnant:

� Obtain up-to-date vaccinations
� Get tested for a sexually transmitted disease
� Begin taking prenatal vitamins

Once conception occurs, maintaining healthy habits is essential. Taking care of your body and baby involves:

� Avoid cigarette smoke (both first and second hand)
� Avoid alcohol
� Avoid drugs
� Maintain a healthy diet
� Exercise regularly
� Do not neglect prenatal care
� Avoid unnecessary risks and certain activities (bungee jumping, thrill sports, etc.)

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