The 03rd of March, 2020 marks the sixth annual World Birth Defects Day, which is observed across the globe for raising awareness in the people about the various kinds of birth defects, devise and practice major prevention programs, and increase the scope of care and referral services for all the individuals diagnosed with birth defects.
Congenital anomalies are a common, expensive, and vital public health challenge. They are some of the major causes of mortality in infants as well as young children. Babies who are able to survive are more likely to experience persistent disabilities in the long-term, which, in turn, often lead to greatly reduced work output and opportunity loss of income potential for the disabled persons and their caretakers, along with requiring expensive medical interventions, including surgical procedures and medications. Furthermore, long-term disabilities put additional stress on the health infrastructure that is already overburdened because of the challenges of providing care in limited-resource setups.
Here are four highly effective measures that could potentially ensure that the risk of congenital anomalies remain minimized.
Implement evidence-based means that might prevent congenital anomalies
You can take the first step towards reducing the odds of birth defects by simply arranging a preconception visit, where your overall health would be extensively reviewed for identifying any underlying medical issues that you may have, the medications being consumed by you, and the ones that you are allowed to continue during pregnancy. Although many of the medications are safe for use during pregnancy, there are other kinds too that should be ceased before conception, as the latter types could cause critical birth defects. It is imperative that women with other health complications, such as diabetes, must opt for a preconception consultation for the reason that being able to have more control of their health problems could aid in reducing the likelihood of congenital defects to a significant extent.
You must also ensure that you are religiously following your vaccination regimen, including getting the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) shots, the ones for varicella (chickenpox), and influenza. If you had had the third one of them in childhood, your body might already be naturally immune to the VZV or varicella-zoster virus. Exposure to rubella and its infection could result in birth defects, and rarely you can have a severe infection from the chickenpox virus during pregnancy, so does the flu. Hence, safeguarding yourself and the unborn baby by making sure that you are getting all the required vaccines is of paramount importance.
Lifestyle changes like consuming folic acid daily could assist in the prevention of birth defects
Attending preconception counseling can also encourage you in maintaining an ideal body weight and a healthy lifestyle. Engaging in periodic exercises even before pregnancy is advisable and one must precisely sustain that extent of activity throughout pregnancy. Ensuring a BMI or body mass index of thirty or more could increase the risk of congenital anomalies as well and this the reason why it is extremely crucial for you to have a healthy weight.
Any woman who is trying to conceive must consume a prenatal vitamin comprising of a minimum of four hundred micrograms of folic acid on a daily basis, at least thirty days before attempting to have a baby. Folic acid is instrumental in reducing the chance of a number of birth defects like NTD or neural tube defects. An increase in the core body temperature could also facilitate the occurrence of congenital anomalies in women who are expecting, especially during the first trimester of their pregnancy. It is suggested that you avoid hot yoga, saunas, and hot tubs like the plague, and promptly treat any fever with acetaminophen, which is safe for administration at the time of pregnancy, unlike ibuprofen.
Reduce substances that could potentially increase the likelihood of congenital anomalies
In addition, you should remember to refrain from anything and everything that are to increase the odds of birth defects, such as, tobacco, alcohol, retinoid medications, and drugs. There is no universal consensus on how much alcohol could safely be consumed by pregnant women and although it is established that binge drinking at the time of pregnancy increases the chance of FAS or fetal alcohol syndrome, it is highly recommended that you should abstain from alcohol consumption during all your pregnancy trimesters.
If you are having alcohol, doing drugs or smoking, you must quit it before your pregnancy. Pregnancy planning itself can prove to be a significant motivator for quitting unhealthy habits during pregnancy and beyond. There is an entire gamut of online resources that can aid you in nicotine cessation, including NRT or nicotine replacement therapy and medication. There might also be facilities at your neighborhood that specifically focus on issues like drug recovery and rehabilitation for pregnant women. Discussing all your problems and concerns with your preferred physician will help you improve your knowledge about how to make sure that you are to have a safe pregnancy.
The Bottom Line
Unfortunately, properly learning and stringently complying with the aforementioned guidelines does not eliminate the risk of birth defects. While many of the known birth defects can be diagnosed with the help of advanced ultrasound equipment that presents a comprehensive understanding of the anatomical structure of your fetus, a number of them remain unidentified until birth. Nevertheless, strictly adhering to the recommendations discussed above is to help make sure that you have followed everything that an informed parent-to-be could for facilitating a healthy pregnancy.
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