How to prevent birth defects before pregnancy?

The abnormalities that occur in the embryo, fetus or baby, while gestating inside the woman's uterus, they are known as congenital defects. In order for them to fulfill the condition that they denominate as congenital, they must be alterations present from birth.

Most of them originate in the first trimester of pregnancy, being able to manifest itself later or be detectable at that moment.

The congenital defect can alter the anatomy of the baby's body, or can alter the functioning of some system or organ. The severity is variable in these alterations.

Some are totally compatible with life and do not generate major inconveniences the human being has been born Others are of intermediate severity, causing lasting disability or requiring chronic treatment, even surgery to the newborn.

As well there are congenital defects that are incompatible with life, causing abortions or the death of the newborn as soon as it leaves the uterus.

Causes of congenital defects linked to DNA

Regrettably, In most of the specific cases of embryos, fetuses or newborns with congenital anomalies, the causes are unknown. But sometimes you can find them. Here we list, first, the known causes linked to DNA:

  • Chromosomal alterations: the origin is an error in the chromosomes of the ovum or the sperm. Once the egg is formed, it is conformed to an abnormal amount of chromosomes, some broken chromosome, or located elsewhere. An example is Down Syndrome.
  • Genetic abnormalities: the origin is an alteration of a specific gene. Genetic errors can be inherited or produced by gene damage during fertilization. Some examples are achondroplasia, cystic fibrosis or phenylketonuria.
  • Polygenic cause: although it is assumed that the original problem in these cases are multiple combined genetic and chromosomal alterations, there is no accuracy to define them. Examples are spina bifida, anencephaly, cleft lip or congenital hip dislocation.

External causes of congenital defects

We tell you, now, in second place, the causes of external origin to the embryo or fetus, which can generate a congenital defect:

  • Maternal diseases during pregnancy: They can alter the formation of the embryo or fetus, causing a congenital defect. Diabetic mothers who can not control blood glucose levels, hypertensive women who can not control their blood pressure or hypothyroid women who are not properly medicated are some examples.
  • Environmental origin: The infections that the mother contracts during pregnancy can alter the development of the pregnancy. We can mention rubella, toxoplasmosis, syphilis and varicella here.

Measures to prevent congenital defects

Planning a healthy pregnancy is possible. These are the measures that a woman can take, easily, to reduce the risk of your baby suffering from a congenital anomaly:

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  • Avoid alcohol: The indication for the pregnant woman is not to drink any alcohol during pregnancy, in any quarter. No alcoholic beverage has been shown to be safe for the embryo or fetus.
  • Get away from tobacco: Tobacco and nicotine have been associated with premature births and cleft palate in babies. Pregnant women should not smoke, nor should they stay in environments where other people smoke.
  • Do not use recreational drugs: Cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy affect the gestational development of a baby. These drugs have been associated with children born with low weight and with important anatomical defects, in the urinary tract and in the heart.
  • Dispense with non-prescribed medications: there are medications that have no indication of use in pregnant women because they alter embryonic development causing congenital defects. A pregnant woman should never self-medicate.

Read also: Medications allowed to take in pregnancy

The importance of medical control of pregnancy

The medical control of pregnancy, as well as the consultations prior to the fertilization of couples planning to have children, are essential. The health professional is trained to detect alterations in time, diagnose and treat them.

Likewise, it is also formed for provide adequate advice to prevent birth defects. Two are the primary actions of a doctor in relation to the woman who plans to become pregnant, or who is controlling her pregnancy:

  • Vaccinate: It is important that the woman has updated her vaccination schedule at the time of becoming pregnant, and that those vaccines that the doctor will indicate during pregnancy are placed.
  • Control maternal pathologies: Both pre-existing diseases and those arising from pregnancy, such as diabetes, hypertension or hypothyroidism, must be controlled so that they do not affect the development of the embryo or the fetus.