Birth defects. Risks and preventive measures

Birth defects. Risks and preventive measures

The risk of birth defects, that is, of anomalies or malformations that affect the development of the fetus in the intrauterine environment, is planned on any pregnancy. But the danger is lower or higher depending on several factors and medical features of each pregnant woman. Here are the main risk factors that lead to the birth defects in the fetus and what steps you can take to prevent them!

A birth defect is an anomaly or malformation with which the baby is born. It can occur in any part of the body - defect of the limbs, bones, organs, central nervous system, genetics, etc. Malformations are caused by several causes, some genetic, others influenced by environmental factors or some actions of the pregnant women, which negatively influence the intrauterine development of the fetus. If the genetic ones are very difficult to predict, you can take prophylactic measures regarding other risk factors.

Risk factors for the appearance of birth defects and preventive measures


Age plays an essential role in decreasing the chances of giving birth to a child with birth defects. The risk of malformations increases as you choose to become a mother at an older age, especially over the age of 35-40, regardless of your personal or family medical history of birth defects.

Down syndrome is the most common congenital malformation in pregnant women over 35 years of age. For this reason, doctors recommend more careful monitoring of pregnancy and extension of the types of analyzes and investigations in these cases. Amniocentesis, a medical investigation that determines the presence of Down syndrome, is a commonly recommended analysis in pregnant women over 35 years.

Personal or family medical history

If you have family cases with people who have been born with such defects or have given birth to a child with anomalies, then the risk of giving birth to a baby with congenital malformations is higher. The doctor will ask you this information related to your medical and family history, at the first consultation of pregnancy or preconception. The information transmitted is essential to the way the task will be monitored and the type of tests you will be subjected to.

Environmental factors

There are also some environmental factors that contribute to increasing the risk of birth of a child with birth defects. For example, the administration of certain drugs during pregnancy, certain infections, regular alcohol consumption and exposure to various toxic substances increase the risk of teratogenic effects (malformations).

Certain treatments or medicines given during pregnancy may at any time have a teratogenic effect if you do not consult your doctor about them. Retin-A-type anti-acne treatments, which contain high doses of vitamin A, have been associated with increased risk of birth defects.

Excess caffeine, steroids or certain vaccines made without the doctor's prior consultation can, irreparably, affect fetal development. Irresponsible alcohol consumption during pregnancy leads to congenital malformations and other very serious, even fatal, health problems.

Doctors do not know the exact amount of alcohol that could have such effects on the health of the fetus. For this reason, they recommend pregnant women to completely exclude such drinks from their diet.

Among the multiple dangers that smoking poses to health are the risk of congenital malformations in the fetus. Smoking is considered an extremely dangerous teratogenic agent, which should be avoided even during pregnancy.

Maternal medical conditions

There are some medical conditions of pregnancy that can turn into teratogenic agents for pregnancy. The risk of developing congenital malformations appears either due to the diseases themselves or to the treatments they involve.

Diabetes, phenylketonuria or epilepsy are just three of the diseases that can increase the risk of birth defects. Your doctor will evaluate your health and prescribe treatments tailored to your condition, to reduce the risk of them becoming teratogenic agents, which cause birth defects in babies.

What are the most common birth defects?

There are many defects that affect the heart. Some of these defects can be quite serious, which can cause the death of babies.
Other defects are those related to the neural tube. These are defects of the spine and brain. These defects can be serious and can sometimes cause death. They are much rarer than heart defects.
The defects of the lip and the sky of the mouth are very common, but they are not serious, even though most of the time they require medical intervention.

Did you face the risk of birth defects during pregnancy? How did you cope? Tell us your opinions in the comments section below!

Tags Congenital malformations Birth complications