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Inherited Disorders and Birth Defects

How will you know about birth defect

02/08/2008

Question:

How will you know if your daughter or son will have a birth defect?

Answer:

All women who become pregnant have a 3-5 % chance of having a baby born with a birth defect. Birth defects can be caused by problems in the chromosomes, by abnormal changes in genes, and by the environment. Some are inherited and others are not. However, we often do not know what causes birth defects.

There are a number of things that women can do to help decrease the chance that their baby will have a birth defect. Talking to your health care provider before becoming pregnant to discuss any current health problems a woman has that could impact a pregnancy, eating a healthy diet, exercising, getting enough folic acid by taking a daily vitamin, not smoking or drinking alcohol are all good things to do.

There are a small number of birth defects that can be diagnosed during pregnancy such as spina bifida (opening of the spine) and Down syndrome. There are both screening tests and diagnostic tests that can look for some of these birth defects.

The March of Dimes has an excellent review of birth defects, some of the causes and ways to decrease the changes of having a baby with a birth defect at the website listed below.

Related Resources:

March of Dimes

For more information:

Go to the Inherited Disorders and Birth Defects health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Anne   Matthews, RN, PhD Anne Matthews, RN, PhD
Associate Professor of Genetics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University