Pregnancy is an amazing time in a woman’s life. Preparations begin for the new arrival and mothers do their best to give their baby the best chance of a healthy life. Sadly, prenatal disorders can sometimes occur during pregnancy, although they are present in a minority of cases. Women often worry about these developing during pregnancy, but what are they? Prenatal disorders are defects that occurs before the birth of the baby. Some birth defects like clubfoot can be seen at birth, yet other problems may not be recognised until later, like hearing issues. Doctors and midwives do their best to ensure the baby is healthy by scheduling regular check-ups and scans during pregnancy and performing tests to monitor any signs of potential irregularities.
While in the womb babies can develop complications when their organs and bodies are forming. Often prenatal disorders occur as a result of genetic makeup that is passed from the parents. Others can be caused from chromosomal problems. A minority of defects are sometimes caused as a result of medications that the parent is taking or infections they may have picked up. The reality is that in many cases there are no known reasons why they are caused. Certain factors can increase the rate of prenatal disorders such as geriatric pregnancies (women over 35), women who have previously had a child with a prenatal disorder, have a family history of disorders, uses certain medication at the time of conception, abuses drugs or alcohol during pregnancy or has medical conditions like diabetes or obesity.
Unfortunately, not all prenatal disorders can be prevented, but there are many things you can do to decrease the risk of the baby developing them. If you are planning to have a child you should visit your doctor first. They will assess your health, risk factors and chances of having a healthy pregnancy. They will also give you helpful advice with any questions you might have about pregnancy or prenatal disorders. Speak with your doctor about any medications that you are on that could affect the pregnancy or medical conditions you have. Ensure that you have all of your injections at least one month before becoming pregnant. It is recommended to get a flu shot as pregnant women are more likely to suffer severe illness from the flu with many being hospitalised each year.
Begin taking a prenatal multivitamin to improve your immune system before and during pregnancy. These are available from your local pharmacy and contain the specific amounts of vitamins and minerals that are essential at this time including vitamin A, C D, folic acid, and minerals like iron. However, do not exceed 10,000 units of vitamin A a day as overindulgence has been seen to result in complications during pregnancy. It is advised that 400 micrograms of folic acid ought to be consumed daily for the duration of a month before pregnancy and during pregnancy. This is a B vitamin that helps with neural tube defects such as spina bifida. It’s also important to avoid certain agents. It is good to limit Mercury intake, so avoid eating king mackerel, shark, tilefish or swordfish. You can however eat up to 6 ounces a week of white tuna. Many women believe fish should not be eaten during pregnancy, however it is nutritional for mother and baby. You can eat 8-12 ounces of low-mercury fish and shellfish per week. Exposure to lead is suggested, which is present in old paint and construction resources.
Certain infections can increase the threat of prenatal disorders. Many people are vaccinated against these, so infections are not a huge risk. Rubella is one such infection which symptoms include rash and fever. It’s a virus that during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, deafness, blindness, heart issues or learning difficulties in a newborn. Toxoplasmosis is another, caused by a parasite from the soil. People catch this by eating undercooked meat, unwashed vegetables or animal faeces, particularly from cats. This often causes deafness, blindness and intellectual issues. Only consume meat that is cooked through and wear gloves when gardening, handling unwashed vegetables or animal faeces. Cytomegalovirus is an extremely common virus that causes no real issues in an average person, but can infect the foetus of a pregnant woman. Most of the time it is not harmful but in a minority of cases it has resulted in babies developing problems with vision, hearing and intellectual disability. This can be spread through a child’s urine or body fluids. Pregnant women who are in regular contact with children should wear gloves when changing nappies and wash hands regularly. Sexually transmitted infections also cause prenatal disorders.
During gestation it’s advised to maintain a healthy weight as obesity can cause complications. And of course, avoid all alcohol, drugs or prescription medication for nonmedical purposes. Alcohol passes to the baby through the umbilical cord and can have huge implications on an infant’s growth rate as well as causing lifelong physical, intellectual and behavioural problems. It is worth noting that there is no official or recommend ‘safe’ amount of alcohol to consume during pregnancy. Drug use can also cause prenatal disorders and miscarriage. In the final stages of pregnancy drug abuse often stunts the growth of the foetus, causes preterm birth or even fetal death. Babies who are born to mothers who used drugs during pregnancy often need special care and can be addicted to narcotics. Smoking cigarettes has also been linked to disorders such as cleft lip, cleft palate and even infant death. The mere presence of tobacco around a pregnant lady can put her at risk.
If you have high risk factors your health care professional or obstetrician-gynaecologist (ob-gyn) may perform additional tests to attempt to reduce your risk level. If you have concerns about a family history of prenatal disorders you can consider genetic counselling or screening to examine your baby. This allows mothers to gain all the information they can before delivery in order to make decisions and prepare.