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You Are What You Eat: Protecting Your Baby Against Birth Defects

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

Just the other day I was reading an online article about how many illnesses and ailments may actually be a byproduct of our environment (and the chemicals it contains), and by our lifestyle. In fact, more and more experts are linking lifestyle, diet and fitness to health and some even putting it at the top of the list for disease prevention, even before genetics....giving perhaps extra (possible previously disregarded) credence to the old adage of "you are what you eat" (and apparently a byproduct of how you live.)

Now, a new study suggests that many birth defects in children are also preventable.

According to recent research there are many measures expectant moms and couples trying to conceive can do before and during pregnancy to lower the risk of potential "problems" and birth defect. And, they add that most of these precautions are nothing short of common-sense sensibilities that are also applicable to anyone who wants to lead and live a healthy life.

Experts urge ladies who are in their reproductive prime (as well as those who may be considering a family "later in life") to be well informed and aware of HOW they are living (on a daily basis) and what is necessary to stay fit and healthy....especially for the sake of their (unborn) baby.

They note that an often cavalier attitude toward eating, exercising and daily living leads to one in 33 children being born with some form of birth defect (here in the United States). They add that most birth defects are formed during the first trimester of pregnancy and involve some structural, functional or biochemical abnormality that can translate into an infant's disability or possible death.

Heart abnormalities are the most common since fetal development of the heart is complex and with many opportunities for things to go wrong. Newborns with heart issues most commonly experience an atrial septal defect or a ventricular septal defect....born with a hole in their heart.

The heart is made up of four chambers, two on top called atrial and two on the bottom, known as ventricle. These are seperated by a muscular wall known as the septum...and in some babies, born with congenital heart defects, the wall hasn't closed properly or completely and there is a gap (hole) between the right and left sides.

This gap inhibits some of the blood from becoming oxygenated at the lungs and then circulated to organs that provide oxygen. Hence, the blood that makes its ways to the tissues is not as well oxygenated as it could or should be. Sometimes these defects are "minor", but at other times they can be quite serious and interfere in the child's development.

Other common birth defects according to the Centers of Disease Control include:

* Neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly, affecting about one out of 1,000 pregnancies.

* Cleft lip or cleft palate, affecting about one in 700 to 1,000 infants.

Still, the good news is that some of these are somewhat controllable and can be affected by environmental exposure....and the women can take precautions to protect their unborn child or children.

Experts asserts that obesity and diabetes are two key components for heart defects..making it essential to control weight and blood sugar levels.

In addition women can take control by controlling their diet. Experts recommend healthy eating plus at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily since folic acid has been shown to prevent neural tube defects.

However, improved eating and living should take place well before a woman becomes pregnant say the experts. This, because birth defects typically form in the early stages of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant. If she already leads a healthy lifestyle she has less to worry about.

Experts also recommend that pregnant ladies begin changing their lifestyle at least once they know they are expecting and that includes reviewing with their doctor any medications they may be taking (prescribed or otherwise) to ensure that they are not doing damage to the fetus.

Pregnant women also need to be cautious when traveling and be extra aware of any potential exposure to infectious diseases and to get inoculated against them.

Swine flu is especially important to guard against especially since it can result in the death of the fetus.

Long Island Pregnancy Articles > You Are What You Eat: Protecting Your Baby Against Birth Defects

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