The new year is officially here! And while January is not only the appropriate month to figure out, forge and follow through with our New Year’s resolutions, it also happens to be the national birth defects awareness month 2022. So, no matter what you are looking for - planning a family or a healthcare provider offering pediatric care, this article is going to guide you about all the important things you need to know on the awareness month, birth defects, and efforts to raise awareness and be proactive about women’s health.
What Are Birth Defects?
As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, birth defects are structural changes present during the birth of a child, impacting any part of a child’s body. It is possible for birth defects to affect someone’s bodily appearance, body function, or in most cases, both.
According to the CDC, one in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect. Most birth defects can occur during the first three months of pregnancy, while a baby’s organs are still developing and forming.
Some of the most common examples of birth defects are fetal alcohol syndrome, cleft lip or palate, Down syndrome, etc. While these birth defects have easily recognizable visual indicators, there are defects with no visual and apparent changes to the body. For example, a baby could be born with no physical deformities but have a congenital heart defect. A congenital heart defect is one of the most common internal birth defects and can be diagnosed with the help of an echocardiogram.
Causes of birth defects
Birth defects mostly occur during the first trimester of pregnancy but are not limited to this time frame. They can occur almost at any stage during pregnancy. Most birth defects can occur while the organs are still developing and forming inside the womb. This stage is extremely crucial. However, some birth defects can still occur later during the course of one’s pregnancy. During the last six months as well, the tissues and organs of a baby are still growing and developing.
For a few birth defects, like fetal alcohol syndrome, causes are known. However, for other birth defects, the causes are still unknown. For most birth defects, the causes could be an underlying mix of complex factors, including genetic information of the parents, their behaviors, things around their environment, or something else entirely. Some of these factors can work in conjunction with each other to cause birth defects in a baby.
A few definite things increase the risk of birth defects in babies that you must know of this National Birth Defects Awareness Month 2022. They are:
1. Smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy
2. Consuming drugs during pregnancy
3. Consuming certain medication like isotretinoin during pregnancy
4. Having a medical condition while being pregnant, like being obese, uncontrolled diabetes, etc.
5. Having a family history of birth defects(s).
6. Any form of infection during pregnancy, like Zika virus, cytomegalovirus, etc.
7. Experience an elevated body temperature and fever over 101 degrees or getting exposed to extreme heat during pregnancy.
8. Late pregnancy can lead to chromosomal abnormalities, which tend to increase with age.
Having any one or more of the abovementioned risks does not necessarily mean that the baby is bound to have a birth defect. Women can have babies with a birth defect even when they do not have any of these risks involved. Therefore, it is extremely important that you talk to your doctor about what can be done to lower the risk of any deformity in your baby.
In order to prevent birth defects, this National Birth Defects Awareness Month 2022, learn healthy tips and behaviors you can follow to be better prepared!
1. Regular Pregnancy Checkups
Ensure that the mother is visiting a healthcare provider regularly. The mother needs to talk about managing her pregnancy better with an effective birth and treatment plan. Talk to your trusted healthcare provider about all kinds of medication, prescription-based as well as over-the-counter. Talk to your doctor about necessary vitamins and supplements. It is important to regularly follow up with a healthcare provider every single time.
2. Get vaccinated
Ensure you talk to your healthcare provider about vaccinations while going in for your regular checkups. You need to be vaccinated against certain diseases and health concerns before your pregnancy, which now also includes the Covid-19 vaccine, flu shot, and a booster dose for whooping cough. Ensure you and your entire family are up-to-date on all these vaccinations.
Being pregnant can put you at a higher risk of developing serious illnesses, which may result in death. Covid-19 is one such health concern for both the mother and the baby. High fevers because of covid-19 during the first trimester of the pregnancy can increase the baby’s risk of developing birth defects.
Covid-19 vaccinations are recommended for everyone above the age of 5 now.
3. Consume folic acid
Before and during pregnancy, women must consume multivitamins consisting of 400 micrograms of folic acid. During pregnancy, this dosage must be increased to up to 600 micrograms.
Folic acid is a type of B Vitamin that helps prevent severe birth defects and deformities regarding the brain and spine of a baby.
While you consume folic acid, you should also consume foods containing folate (a natural form of folic acid), which can be found in lentils, black beans, green leafy vegetables, and orange juice. You can also consume food items made of fortified grain products containing folic acid in a different form. These food items are pasta, cereals, bread, cornbread, tacos, tamales, and even tacos.
4. Reach a healthy weight
Contact your healthcare provider about gaining healthy weight before you are pregnant. Excess weight gain can cause potential fertility issues and increase the chances of your baby developing birth defects. Therefore, it is important to talk to your medical professional about eating healthy and gaining a healthy weight before and during pregnancy.
The National Birth Defects Awareness Month 2022 aims to raise awareness among women globally regarding actions that people can take to improve their baby’s health. Birth defects are health conditions that can be present upon birth. It can cause an extremely serious problem in a baby’s overall health and development and, of course, their functioning.
This National Birth Defects Awareness Month 2022, spread the right information around you to prevent birth defects entirely. Pledge to read the right resources and spread the right information around you. Share this article with someone you think will benefit from it.
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