Protect Our Babies, 98,000 Birth Defects

About 3% of babies born have a birth defect, by teen years, an additional 10 to 15% of birth defects are actually discovered! So these problems are both common, and difficult to understand. An important part of protecting the developing fetus is the prevention of these birth defects, and trying to understand what the medical community can do to prevent these defects has spun off into many avenues of scientific research. One thing that we always want to know when a baby has been diagnosed with a birth defect is whether this was a random occurrence, or whether the birth defect represents a part of a condition or syndrome that may occur again. EUROCAT study watches over 3 million births, and looks at 98,000 birth defects (congenital Anomalies) in 14 European countries over the decade that spanned 1995 to 2005. And mostly they are seeing and following defects that either have never been previously been reported or have been seen somewhere by physicians, but are extremely rare. These databases are extremely valuable and they show that there are not too many actual syndromes that occur, but tracking them accurately is the first step to a cure. In the US we have the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Their numbers as of 2012 indicate that one in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect. There are a few things studies like this have revealed is that about 10% of these conditions are caused by teratogens: or substances (could be a medicine, a herb or a poison like pesticide or preservatives) that cause the defect. Weeks 2 to 8 in fetal life is the embryonic period of time and we call the fetal period from 9 weeks until full term. Before implantation, large numbers of cells that are destroyed cause miscarriages, not birth defects. Once the embryo implants, that embryonic period: those most sensitive 6 weeks is when most of the structural defects occur. So very early in the pregnancy women have to be aware of all their exposures and discuss this with your gynos. Even commonly taken pain medicines like ibuprofen and aspirin are associated with a small risk of birth defects. Also environmental pregnancy risks are highlighted in in 2013 series of articles. At Women's Health Practice we also say that prepregnancy consultation is when to discuss these issues to try to minimize potential effects. For women who have a specific medication or chemical they want to check about here are some additional sources on the internet (the last two are by subscription):


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