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Experts Believe Many Birth Defects Are Preventable
Date:7/2/2010

d ventricle. They are separated by a muscular wall called the septum," said Dr. Adolfo Correa, medical supervisor for the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. "In some of the babies that are born with congenital heart defects, that wall hasn't been closed completely. There is a hole between the right side and the left side.

"That prevents some of the blood from becoming oxygenated at the lungs and then circulated to organs to provide oxygen. The blood that goes into the tissues is not as well-oxygenated as it might be. Sometimes those defects are very mild, and sometimes they can be very large and severe and interfere in the development of the child."

Other common birth defects noted by the CDC include:

  • Neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly, which affect about 1 of 1,000 pregnancies.
  • Cleft lip or cleft palate, which affects about 1 in 700 to 1,000 babies.

But there's at least one encouraging thing that women should know about heart defects, neural tube defects and orofacial defects, according to the March of Dimes: Medical researchers believe that environmental exposure plays a role in whether a child develops these birth defects.

That means there are steps women can take to protect their children.

Obesity and diabetes are two important risk factors for heart defects, Correa said. Controlling weight and blood sugar levels are key to protecting the health of unborn child.

"Women of childbearing age should see their physicians about ways to achieve a healthy weight to make sure their pregnancy is a healthy one," he said. "When diabetes is well-controlled, the risk of birth defects can be reduced to the average risk in the population. Women with diabetes really need to see their physicians and make sure their diabetes is under good control."

Women also can reduce risk for birth defects through their diet. For example, experts say they should be tak
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