Birth defects are an important cause of childhood disability and death. When children were born with disabilities, it pains their family and the society. The most common 5 congenital disorders are cleft lip, neural tube defects, polydactyly, congenital heart disease, and hydrocephalus. Although many of them can’t be totally prevented, their chance can be greatly reduced if people who want to become parents, especially moms-to-be, have taken preventive measures before and during pregnancy.
1. Taking folic acid supplements. Women should start taking folic acid supplements 3 months before and during pregnancy. Lack of folic acid in their body may cause anencephaly and spina bifida in newborns. It is recommended to take 400 micrograms per day. If a woman fails to do so before pregnancy, the dose should be increased during the first trimester and about 800 mg is appropriate. In addition, eating more green leafy vegetables and fruits can also help.
2. Consulting a doctor before conception. Women, especially those with chronic diseases, should get a preconception checkup to rule out tuberculosis, liver disease, mental illness, chronic vaginitis, and so on. If any of them have been confirmed, no doubt treating them is the first priority. And the doctor will give opinion when to conceive based on the recovery.
3. Genetic counseling. It is a good idea to exclude family genetic history, such as asthma, diabetes, etc. If the couple has such problems, genetic counseling is necessary and the doctor will perform the probability analysis of genetic diseases affecting baby. So, talk to the doctor and take into consideration the opinion given by experts.
4. Quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke. Smoking during pregnancy will greatly increase the probability of birth defects. On the contrary, quitting smoking will reduce the risk of it and premature births. Avoiding secondhand smoke is equally important since harmful toxin in air will reduce fetal oxygen uptake.
5. Abstaining from alcohol. Because alcohol can penetrate every cell of the body, drinking it may have some effects on the fetus intelligence or lead to serious fetal disability in severe cases. Besides, alcohol may affect the development of zygote. For example, cell division of fetal brain will be hampered, which thus causes central nervous system disorders, and even cause birth defects and other serious consequences. So, drinking is a big no no for moms-to-be.
6. Avoiding exposure to air pollution. If a pregnant woman works in the cleaning industry, art room, or chemical factories, at work she must wear gloves, masks and other protective gears. More importantly, she shouldn’t work under the environment without ventilation. Similarly, it is important to ventilate her home and try not to renovate the house during pregnancy.
7. Having a healthy diet. Health experts suggest that pregnant women should eat a variety of healthy foods, especially whole grains, soy foods and proteins. At the same time, more fish and DHA supplements are highly recommended too.
8. Relaxing the mind and body. Relevant studies show that stress and anxiety may lead to infertility or cause miscarriage and premature birth during pregnancy. Exercise in moderation will potentially benefit and relax pregnant women. Of course, it’s important to see a doctor and get the OK before starting to exercise.
9. Virus testing. Human papilloma virus increases the risk of preterm birth in pregnant women and, worse still, is likely to cause developmental problems in children’s brain and lungs. So, virus detection is highly recommended before trying to conceive.
10. Avoiding unsafe medications. Many non-prescription drugs are unsafe to pregnant women. So, be sure to consult a doctor and follow his or her advice before taking any medications. Improper use of drugs can usually cause miscarriage, functional disorders, or even congenital malformations. Drug-induced fetal malformation or damage tends to occur in the first three months of pregnancy, especially in the first eight weeks. In addition, medication should be avoided 2 weeks before giving birth. If medication is a must, it should be particularly careful because some drugs can affect the hematopoietic function of the newborn, or cause severe jaundice and hemolytic anemia, and sometimes may even lead to fetal death.
Birth defects can be the nightmare of every family. In order to have a healthy pregnancy, moms-to-be should take the above-mentioned precautions that will diminish the chances of structural or functional abnormalities present at birth.