When you’re pregnant, you worry about every little thing that could go wrong. Thankfully, most babies are born healthy. There are, however, some serious birth disorders that you should be aware of, in the unlikely event that your baby is affected.
· Spina Bifida – This is a condition where the backbone, which protects the spinal cord, does not close properly during prenatal development. This condition can range from being a minor problem, if the opening is tiny, or can cause paralysis and other serious medical issues if the opening is large, or if the spinal cord itself is protruding. The exact cause is not known, though heredity does seem to play a role. So does nutrition, particularly when the mother does not have enough folic acid in her diet. Obstetricians have begun recommending folic acid supplements for women who are pregnant or who could become pregnant, and this has lowered the rate of this disease. You will probably be tested for spina bifida during your pregnancy. Many times it can be diagnosed in utero using ultra sound. Sometimes, surgery can even be performed on the baby in utero to correct the problem.
· Tay Sachs Disease – This disease is caused by an enzyme deficiency. Simply put, these babies do not break down fatty deposits in the brain and nerve cells. Unfortunately, it is not usually diagnosed at birth. When the child is several months old, this buildup of fatty deposits will clog cells, causing the baby’s nervous system to stop working. The child will begin to regress developmentally, always resulting in death. Tay Sachs is very rare, less than one hundred cases are reported in the US each year. It is caused by genetics. Both parents must have the gene for the disease to occur. It is most common in Jewish families of Central and Eastern European descent. If your ethnic background makes this disease a risk for your child, you and your partner can be tested for the gene before you become pregnant. In addition, the disease can be diagnosed in utero via amniocentesis.
· Down Syndrome- Down Syndrome is the term given to a set of symptoms that indicate some degree of mental retardation. Children with Down syndrome have a distinct set of facial features, a large tongue and a short neck. Down Syndrome varies widely in the degree of mental retardation that it causes. Some children are highly functional; others will require constant care. Down syndrome affects about one in 1300 babies in the US. It is most often caused by an extra chromosome coming from the mother or father. Down syndrome is more likely to occur when parents have already had a child with the birth disorder, and when the mother is over 35 years in age. Down syndrome can be detected via amniocentesis, which is why this test is common protocol for most pregnant women over the age of 35.
These are three of the most common birth disorders. To find out about more birth disorders, see my article in “Mommy to Mommy – The Truth about Taking Care of Baby”, which can be found at http://www.educatedmother.com.