Did you know that about 1 in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect? And that birth defects are one of the leading causes of infant deaths, accounting for more than 20% of all infant deaths. Is this a problem that needs to be addressed? Can at least some of these birth defects be prevented? Many think so. And a woman can take steps to increase her chances of having a baby with the best health possible.
An April 2009 National Vital Statistics Reports obtained from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website, states that the number 1 leading cause of infant death is “congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities (congenital malformations).”
CDC’s definition of a birth defect:
- a condition that cause structural changes in one or more parts of the body; are present at birth; and
- have a serious, adverse effect on health, development, or functional ability.
Defects usually start during the first 3 months of pregnancy
Many birth defects form within the first 3 months of pregnancy, when the organs of the baby are forming. There are several causes of birth defects, which include; genetics, environmental factors, a combination of both, or unknown factors.
The body is a very delicate, intricate system with many parts, therefore there are more than 4,000 different known birth defects, ranging from minor to serious, and many can be treated or cured, even before birth.
However, some birth defects can be prevented. And it is important that soon to be mothers understand that there are things that she can do before and during pregnancy to increase her chances of having a healthy baby; such as avoiding alcohol, smoking, drug usage, and be aware of the risks involved when taking certain medications, whether over the counter or prescribed by her doctor.
There have been several medications prescribed to woman for depression, anxiety, and to treatment of epilepsy that are directly linked to birth defects. For example, the most commonly described anti-depressants are SSRI’s, such as Zoloft, and anti-seizure medications Depakote and Topamax.
Persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) of the newborn occurs when a newborn’s circulation system does not adapt to breathing outside the womb. It is a very serious condition that can lead to death. And if a mother takes Zoloft after week 20 of her pregnancy, she has a 6 fold increase in her chances of her baby developing PPHN.
A septal heart defect is sometimes referred to as a hole in the heart, and is a type of congenital heart defect in which there is an abnormal opening in the dividing wall between the main pumping chambers of the heart (the ventricles). Most often times, this condition will result in the infant requiring surgery.
And an omphalocele is a birth defect in which the infant’s intestine or other abdominal organs stick out of the belly button (navel). In babies with an omphalocele, the intestines are covered only by a thin layer of tissue and can be easily seen. Approximately 25 – 40% of infants with an omphalocele also have other birth defects. They may include genetic problems (chromosomal abnormalities), congenital diaphragmatic hernia, and heart defects.