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How To Prevent Birth Defects?

By Subodini Menon

Birth defects are the abnormalities seen in the baby when they are born. They can be due to different reasons. Some birth defects are caused due to genetic problems. Some others can be caused by the environment and habits of the parents. While the birth defects of genetic origin cannot be preventable, those that are caused by the habit of the parents and the environment.

Birth defects can either be structural or functional in nature. The structural birth defects are those that affect body parts. The examples of structural birth defects are heart problems like missing valves, neural tube defects, spina bifida, cleft lip and palate.

Functional birth defects are those that affect the function of the body parts involved. These can cause developmental disabilities like problems of the nervous system, sensory problems, degenerative disorders and metabolic disorders.

If you are pregnant or are planning a pregnancy, chances are that you are worried about your baby being born with birth defects. There are some things you can do to ensure that the risk of birth defects is reduced. Today, we shall talk about the things you can do to prevent birth defects in your baby. Scroll on for more information.

Plan Things Beforehand

If at all possible, try to plan the pregnancy beforehand. This will give you time to talk to your doctor and take precautions against birth defects. The doctor will ask you for the history of birth defects in your family.

If there has been a predilection towards birth defects in your or your spouse's family, you might be at a risk of having a baby with birth defects. This will help your doctor to advise you accordingly. You may have to take certain drugs, lose weight or gain weight as your doctor asks you to. It is best if you talk to your doctor before you start trying for a baby.

Consume Folic Acid

As soon as you decide that you are going to have a baby, you must talk to your doctor and begin a daily dosage of folic acid as prescribed by him. It is seen that folic acid can help reduce the birth defects related to the nervous system and the brain. You should remember that the defects of the neural tube occur in the first month of pregnancy when most women are unaware of the pregnancy. Therefore it is important to start folic acid before you get pregnant for it to be effective.

Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol has been linked with a lot of birth defects one of which is the fetal alcohol syndrome. Use of alcohol during pregnancy can also lead to stillbirths and miscarriages. If you are pregnant or want to get pregnant, avoiding alcohol is the first thing you can do.

Refrain from Smoking

Smoking is a dangerous activity for you and your baby. It can cause low birth weight, premature birth and birth defects like cleft palate. It is best if you can quit smoking before you even get pregnant. If your spouse smokes, he too should quit or at least make sure that he doesn't smoke in your presence.

Ensure Good Health

Your health has a direct effect on your baby's health. If you are healthy, your baby too will be born hale and hearty. Eat healthy food and eat at a regular time. Exercise regularly even if it is light exercise. Yoga and meditation will be good for your mental health. Only a stress-free mother can raise a healthy child.

Prevent Infections

Some infections that happen during the pregnancy are known to cause abnormalities and birth defects in babies. Genital herpes and toxoplasmosis are examples of such infections and are known to cause retardation, learning disabilities and hearing impairment. You should take care of hygiene and must try and stay away from people who have contagious diseases. Talk to your doctor for more information on how to avoid infections.


When pregnant, there may be some vaccinations you may need to take. This will help your body to fight diseases and will also boost your baby's immune system. Immunization is a way to ensure that your baby does not have birth defects when born.

Do Not Self-medicate

There are medicines that are known to cause birth defects when used in pregnant women. Some of these are very commonly used and are available over the counter. So, it is better not to self-medicate and visit your doctor no matter how simple your ailment seems. The same goes for multivitamins, food supplements and herbal home remedies. It is best to be safe than be sorry.

Have Tests Done

Today, there are a plethora of tests that can be done to determine if the baby in your womb suffers from birth defects. Screening your pregnancy makes it easier to spot a problem and that way you can begin the required treatment.

Get Your Partner To Contribute To The Efforts

Without your partner's help, it might seem difficult to make the changes for a healthy pregnancy and baby. Ask your spouse to be your equal partner through the pregnancy and the journey that gives you your baby. Lifestyle changes like eating healthy and quitting alcohol or smoking can only be successful with the support of your spouse.

Read more about: birth
Story first published: Thursday, August 9, 2018, 18:30 [IST]