Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Birth Defect Awareness Month

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By Diane Forrest, RN

On December 6, 2011 at 2:30 in the afternoon, my stepson and his wife had a beautiful baby boy named Easton Clark, 7 pounds and 4 ounces.  The news of the arrival of this baby was a very happy occasion, however not all births are as uncomplicated as this one.  In 1986 some friends were expecting their first baby.  These people were healthy, smart, did all the proper things, had regular checkups and she took her vitamins and ate properly.  Did not smoke or drink, did not take any medications.  They had all the expectations of a perfect pregnancy and delivery.   She lived in Atlanta, so I didn't have much occasion to see her, however the first time I saw her, she appeared to be having twins.  She assured me she wasn’t, and all the sonograms and ultrasounds confirmed.  The night her baby was born, however, there was a different story.  It was a dark, stormy night, and her water broke.  Her husband rushed her to the hospital, as all expectant fathers do, and the hospital staff proceeded to ready her for delivery.  What happened next was a shock for all.  What was expected to be a routine delivery ended up being an emergency Cesarean Section, my friend nearly died, and the obstetrician fainted.

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Her baby was born with hydrocephalus and spina bifida.  There was no warning there was any problems with the pregnancy, however, later, research showed that both families had a history of these problems.    There are thousands of different birth defects. About 120,000 babies in the United States are born each year with a birth defect. The most common birth defects are heart defects, cleft lip and cleft palate, Down syndrome and spina bifida.

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There are also birth defects that come from the mother during pregnancy.  If the mother smokes, drinks alcohol, takes illegal drugs and even some prescribed medication, or develops a sexually transmitted disease will also increase the chances of a birth defect.

January is Birth Defect Awareness Month.  What you can do to be aware is to encourage routine medical checkups during the pregnancy, avoid drinking alcohol, smoking and drugs unless prescribed, eat healthy, drink plenty of fluids, exercise and get lots of rest. 

For more ways you can help click on this site for the March of Dimes:  http://www.marchofdimes.com/default.html#

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