A Challenge for Many Families
One in 33 is the rate of babies born nationally with birth defects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that means about one child in every school classroom in the country might be affected.
Birth defects come in many forms. Here in New Mexico, the Department of Health (NMDOH) tracks the rate of 12 major birth defects. They include limb and heart deformities, cleft palates, Spina Bifida and more. Down syndrome is one of the most common defects in our state, affecting 1 in every 1000 live births in New Mexico, on average. However this rate is lower than the United States’ rate of 1 in every 700 live births.
Down syndrome is a condition in which a person has an extra chromosome. Even though people with Down syndrome might act and look similar, each person has different abilities. People with Down syndrome usually have an IQ in the mildly-to-moderately low range and are slower to speak than other children.
According to the CDC, researchers know that Down syndrome is caused by the extra chromosome, but no one knows for sure why Down syndrome occurs or how many different factors play a role. One factor that increases the risk for having a baby with Down syndrome is the mother’s age. Women who are 35 years or older when they become pregnant are more likely to have a pregnancy affected by Down syndrome than women who become pregnant at a younger age. However, the majority of babies with Down syndrome are born to mothers less than 35 years old, because there are many more births among younger women.
Not all birth defects can be prevented, but women can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by managing their health and adopting healthy habits before becoming pregnant.
The NMDOH and the CDC recommend the following.
See a Doctor Regularly
Be sure to see a doctor when planning a pregnancy and start prenatal care as soon as you think you’re pregnant. It is important to see the doctor regularly throughout pregnancy, and if you are trying to have a baby or are just thinking about it, it is not too early to start getting ready for pregnancy.
Avoid Alcohol at Any Time During Pregnancy
Alcohol in a woman’s bloodstream passes to the developing baby through the umbilical cord. There is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant. All types of alcohol are equally harmful, including wine and beer.
The dangers of smoking during pregnancy include preterm birth, cleft lip or cleft palate and infant death. Even being around tobacco smoke puts a woman and her pregnancy at risk for problems. Quitting smoking before getting pregnant is best.
Most vaccinations are safe during pregnancy and some vaccinations, such as the flu vaccine and the Tdap vaccine (adult tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis vaccine), are specifically recommended during pregnancy. Some vaccines protect women against infections that can cause birth defects.
Work to Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity also increases a pregnant woman’s risk of several serious birth defects. Even if a woman is not actively planning a pregnancy, getting healthy can help boost her health and her mood. If a woman is overweight or obese, she should talk with her doctor about ways to reach a healthy weight before she gets pregnant.
Please visit the Birth Defects page for more information.
We would be happy to provide additional information about this press release. Simply contact David Morgan at 575-528-5197 (Office) or 575-649-0754 (Mobile) with your questions.
Versión en Español
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