Birth defects are defined as abnormalities of structure, function, or body metabolism that are present at birth. These abnormalities lead to mental or physical disabilities or are fatal. There are more than 4,000 different known birth defects ranging from minor to serious, and although many of them can be treated or cured, they are the leading cause of death in the first year of life
About 150,000 babies are born each year with birth defects. The parents of one out of every 28 babies receive the frightening news that their baby has a birth defect.
A single abnormal gene can cause birth defects. Every human being has 20,000 to 25,000 genes that determine traits like eye and hair color, as well as direct the growth and development of every part of our physical and biochemical systems. Genes are packaged into each of the 46 chromosomes inside our cells.
Most birth defects happen before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Remember that about half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Therefore, every woman should:
- Know the family history of her mother, father and her partner.
- Take a multivitamin that has 400 milligrams of folic acid in it every day before conception. In fact it is best for all women in reproductive age to take folic acid.
- Have regular medical check-ups.
- If a pregnancy is planned check with your doctor about:
- Know what to avoid at work or at home that might be harmful to a developing baby .
- Keep vaccinations (shots) up-to-date.
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat.
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and street drugs.
- Get prenatal care early and steadily.
You need to know that Folic Acid supplements can prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects (NTD) and other malformations. NTD malformations include spina bifida (open spine); meningomyeloceles, myeloceles; anencephaly (open skull); encephalocele (gap in the skull) and other anomalies.
Please Remember – Enough Folic Acid cannot be obtained by diet alone, you need a supplement. Over 70% of NTD and other birth defects can be prevented by taking 0.4mg of folic acid each day (as pills or as vitamin pills with folic acid). All women should take a supplement because most pregnancies are unexpected. Starting to take folic acid only when pregnant is too late.
If an instance of NTD has occurred in your family, you should ask your physician or a medical geneticist to prescribe folic acid for you. You may need much more folic acid (4mg) because NTD risks in your family may be higher.
Finally, consider that folic acid probably decreases the occurrence of other birth defects and prevents cardiovascular problems as we grow older.
– Proof Folic Acid Protects Women of Childbearing Age (Oct 27, 2000)
– Birth Defects Research for Children