Many expectant mothers experience anxiety about the health of their unborn child, and they wonder fearfully about the possibility of a birth defect. For roughly three out of 100 pregnancies, those fears are realized in some way. One in a 100 suffers a major defect, such as cleft palate, mental disability or congenital heart defect.
Rather than worry incessantly about their baby’s odds of suffering from a birth defect, some expectant parents bury their heads in the sand, refusing to learn more or investigate the possibility. For many, the wondering ends in a sigh of relief with a healthy birth. For those who don’t, the heartache is deepened by wondering what might have happened if they had done more to prepare.
What You Should Know
Here at Perey Law, we’ve seen parents who harbor this regret of not having prepared for the possibility of birth defect in their child. The following is some of the advice we’ve collected from these parents, and from doctors and from other experts, about how and when to tell if your child might be at risk for birth defect:
- Most defects are present within the first three months of pregnancy. This is the time when organs are forming.
- Infections or diseases contracted during pregnancy should immediately be addressed with a doctor. These kinds of health problems, while easily treatable in an adult, can have disastrous consequences for a baby’s development in the womb.
- Some otherwise safe medications and vaccines can cause serious birth defects when taken by pregnant women. Talk to your doctor about any medications (including over-the-counter drugs and supplements) you may be taking, and which vaccines are necessary.
- Know that prenatal screenings have been known to falsely identify defects, and some defects may go undetected.
- Prenatal anatomy ultrasounds may diagnose certain birth defects in utero. More in-depth screening options such as blood tests and amniocentesis (taking a sample of the amniotic fluid) may be offered to pregnant women who have higher-risk pregnancies due to family history, advanced maternal age or other factors.
- Treatment options vary by type of defect and level of severity. Some birth defects can be corrected prior to birth or shortly thereafter. Other defects may affect a child for his or her entire life.
There are no definite, telltale pregnancy symptoms that indicate the presence of birth defect. But there are many preventative measures that an expectant mother can take to protect her baby against the risk.
Women who anticipate becoming pregnant should start taking folic acid supplements prior to conception and continue taking a physician-recommended dose as part of a prenatal vitamin throughout pregnancy. Folic acid can prevent serious defects of the spine and brain as well as some other types of birth defects. Maintaining a healthy weight helps reduce risk of complications during pregnancy, and women with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, should take special care to manage their health. And, obviously, women should avoid alcohol, drugs and tobacco during pregnancy.
Some Parting Thoughts
Finally, here are the reassuring words that one expectant mother shared in a online forum about how to handle fears in the midst of getting tested to check on the health of your unborn child:
- It is just a screening. Your chances are very good that everything really is fine. There are many people with figures as frightening as 1:2 and their babies are fine too. Get on the message boards and check out just how many! There are lots of false positives.
- If you are close to 35 or over, the AFP is very hard to nearly impossible to “pass” as age is calculated into your results.
- If you do decide to have amnio spend the extra money (approx. 300.00) if you can and elect to have the FISH testing as well. FISH testing isolates specific chromosomes (the ones associated with downs) while amnio analyzes all. FISH testing results are available in approximately 48 hours.
Who We Are
Contact Perey Law today at (206) 443-7600 if you think a doctor’s error or a medication you took may have caused a congenital defect in your child. We can help you understand your options for seeking justice to ensure the best possible future for your child.