What a mom-to-be puts on her skin, eats, and smokes affects her baby. There are more than 4,000 different kinds of birth defects, ranging from minor ones that need no treatment to serious ones that cause disabilities or require medical or surgical treatment.

If a baby is born with a part of the body that is missing or malformed, it is called a structural birth defect. HEART DEFECTS are the most common type of structural defect. Others include FACIAL CLEFT, SPINA BIFIDA, CLUBFOOT and CONGENITAL DISLOCATED HIP.
When there is a problem with a baby’s body chemistry, it is called a metabolic birth defect. Metabolic defects prevent the body from properly breaking down food to create energy. Examples of metabolic defects include TAY-SACHS DISEASE, a fatal disease that affects the central nervous system, and PHENYLKETONURIA (PKU), which affects the way the body processes protein.

Knowing about a baby’s health problems ahead of time can help parents and doctors plan for the future. Majority of these defects can be diagnosed even before a baby is born through prenatal tests. Prenatal tests also can help determine if a mother has an infection or other condition that is dangerous for the fetus.

WHAT A PREGNANT MOTHER SHOULD LOOK OUT FORFor people who want to become parents, it’s important to know that some birth defects can be prevented. During a woman’s pregnancy, taking folic acid and getting enough iodine in the diet can help prevent some types of birth defects. But it’s also important to realize that most babies born with birth defects are born to two healthy parents with no obvious health problems or risk factors.

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