Changes in the chromosomes and genes cause some birth defects. These are parts of the body cells that store instructions for body growth and development. These genes are passed on from parents to children. Other defects are caused by things in the environment that are not healthy for pregnant women and unborn babies. For example, cigarette smoke and environmental toxins can harm the unborn child.
Preconceptional care involves a variety of interventions that prevent the development of birth defects in children. These interventions include family planning, nutrition, and fortification of staple foods. They also involve infectious disease control and public health campaigns. They are also very cost-effective and can be provided in low-income countries.
Optimizing medical conditions before pregnancy
If you plan to become pregnant, you should know that many medical conditions can cause birth defects in the fetus. These include diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, and deep venous thrombosis. Some of these conditions require special care during pregnancy. Additionally, some medications may prevent pregnancy or have side effects that could harm the growing child. Other factors to consider include allergies and prior surgeries or accidents.
Avoiding harmful environmental agents
Avoiding exposure to certain environmental agents can help to reduce the risk of birth defects in children. These agents include air pollutants, pesticides, and disinfection by-products in drinking water. These are known teratogens, and protecting yourself and your family from them is important.
Avoiding high-dose supplements
Avoiding high-dose supplements while pregnant is critical to preventing the development of certain birth defects in children. These defects may be present at birth but may not be visible until the child grows up. Some are hereditary, such as Down syndrome, and others are caused by chromosome abnormalities, environmental factors, or medications during pregnancy.
Vaccinations to prevent birth defects in children are extremely important for pregnant women and their babies. These preventive measures are quick and simple and can pay off in the long run for both mother and baby. It is important to discuss these options with your healthcare provider before becoming pregnant.
Treatments for children with birth defects
Although there is no known cure for certain birth defects, many can be treated. Prenatal surgeries can often repair defects before they cause significant damage and limit the potential for long-term effects. For example, certain heart, kidney, and urinary tract defects can be repaired surgically while a baby is in the womb. Also, prenatal gene therapy may be used to repair defective genes, though this technique is not widely used.