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Most birth defects caught early

According to the Mississippi State Department of Health, in the United States, about 5,550 babies are born each year with Down syndrome and about 6,800 are born each year with a cleft lip or palate, two of the most common birth defects in the nation.
The MSDH defines a birth defect as “an abnormality of body structure, function or chemistry present at birth that results in physical or mental disabilities.” They are also the main cause of death during the first year of life, the MSDH website states.
From 2000 to 2007, there were 347,821 live births in Mississippi and a total of 7,520 birth defect cases reported, the MSDH website states.
However, officials with Highland’s Center for Women’s Health, said, that in three years, they have had only one situation where a child was born with birth defect that wasn’t detected early on in the pregnancy.
“We don’t see a lot of birth defects here,” Director of OB Services Janelle Imhoff said. “Babies that need extra care are sent to Ochsner in New Orleans. If we detect a birth defect early on, the mother is referred to a maternal fetal medicine specialist in either New Orleans or Forrest General. The patients still see their doctors here.”
According to the MSDH’s website, the causes of numerous birth defects are unknown.
The known causes are divided into four types:
–– In single-gene, the birth defects can be inherited from one gene from one or both parents, who can be healthy and unaware they carry a defective gene.
–– A chromosomal birth defect is caused by abnormalities in entire chromosomes or the presence of too few or too many of a certain chromosome in the parents’ reproductive cells.
–– Environmental birth defects are caused by outside factors such alcohol, tobacco smoke and chemicals.
Some birth defects can be prevented, the MSDH website states. Avoiding alcohol and tobacco products can prevent environmental birth defects. Inherited birth defects can be prevented by determining them in the parents before conception, the website states.
The most important thing a pregnant woman can receive is prenatal care, Imhoff said.
“Your OB/GYN is your best resource for educational resources and prenatal care,” Imhoff said. “Make sure to attend your regularly scheduled visits.”
For more information about birth defects, visit www.msdh.ms.gov.
Contact staff at Highland Center for Women’s Health at 601-358-9422.