Dealing with infertility can be stressful for couples struggling to get pregnant. It is common for them to feel like they are being bombarded with advice from health professionals and practitioners, or pushed and pulled in different directions by well-meaning friends and family. To add to this pressure, there is also fear and anxiety about the health of the fetus currently developing in utero.
One of the most common questions that pregnant mothers ask their OB-GYN, ultrasonologist, or reproductive therapy specialist during virtually every checkup is the following: “Is my baby okay?” With several hundreds of thousands of cases of birth defects occurring worldwide every year, this is a common and valid concern for all would-be parents.
Education is one of the most powerful tools in preventing birth defects. By paying attention to nutrition and lifestyle, some of these birth defects can be prevented:
1. Heart Defects: congenital heart disease affects as many of one in every 100 live births. Women who are clinically obese at the time they become pregnant have an elevated risk of their baby having a congenital heart defect, as well as many other birth defects. By exercising, eatinga healthy diet to get to a normal weight before becoming pregnant, your baby can have a greater chance at having a normal heart.
2. Neural Tube Defects: Spina bifida and anencephaly are serious spinal cord malformations that are incompatible with life. The incidence of these birth defects is about one in 1,000 live births. This birth defect can be prevented 70% of the time by taking at least 400 mcg of folic acid every day during your childbearing years. This is easily achieved by selecting a multivitamin that contains enough of this supplement. Since many pregnancies occur without planning or warning, and the most crucial period for women to get adequate folic acid is in the first month of pregnancy, many women have no idea that they are pregnant at this time. The safe route is to make a habit of adequately supplementing your nutrition.
3. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Pregnant women are often curious about how much alcohol is considered safe to drink during their nine-month term. Most physicians and laypersons often advise pregnant mothers to avoid drinking alcohol completely during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Fetal alcohol syndrome is considered one of the most common environmental causes of mental retardation, and it is entirely preventable. Children born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome are born preterm, underweight, and demonstrate learning and behavioral disabilities throughout childhood, as well as other birth defects.
It is imperative that women who are pregnant avoid cigarettes, alcohol and illicit recreational drugs, and get adequate prenatal care, especially if they have chronic diseases such as hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, or endocrine disorders. Proper management of health through diet, exercise, and supplemental nutrition is essential in avoiding the burden of birth defects.