The Three Most Common Preventable Birth Defects and Their Causes
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2. Heart Defects and Maternal Obesity
Heart defects are some of the most common malformations. The various types of errors in the formation of the heart may occur in as many as 1 in 100 live births. Mothers who are obese at the time they become pregnant (Body Mass Index >30) seem to have an increased chance of having a baby with several kinds of birth defects, including heart defects. If mothers can reduce body weight by making healthy lifestyle changes prior to becoming pregnant, this can help prevent heart and other defects in their baby.
3. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Maternal Drinking
"Alcohol is the most common recognizable environmental cause of birth defects associated with mental retardation," says Luther K Robinson MD, founder of the Pregnancy Risk Network. Children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome are born small, have problems with learning and behavior, and may have other birth defects. "It's completely preventable by avoiding alcohol during pregnancy," Dr. Robinson says. This means that women who have the potential to become pregnant can prevent having a child affected by alcohol by modifying their alcohol drinking habits prior to becoming pregnant. Once a woman knows she is pregnant, she can prevent later effects of alcohol on the baby's growing brain by avoiding alcohol through the remainder of the pregnancy and during breastfeeding.