How to Manage a Congenital Disability
Pregnancy is a delicate period because anything that happens to body organs or tissues influence the development of a baby.
In fact, natural delivery is increasingly becoming rare; it is being replaced by caesarian because of the complexities of the process. Safe and normal child delivery is worth a celebration. However, the issue does not end here; actually, it begins at birth.
While most babies are born healthy, cases at birth are also many. Healthy at birth does not necessarily mean development of limbs, these physical aspects can be perfect but the system is impaired.
Congenital disorders are health conditions that exist from birth; it can either be genetic or caused by environmental factors.
Congenital disorders vary widely; it can be temporal or permanent depending on severity of the health condition. Some children have to grow to adulthood with the physical disability or health condition.
How to identify a congenital disorder
One of the tests you should undergo during pregnancy is to do with health of the baby. Usually, a congenital disorder test is performed after 10 weeks.
It is highly advisable to avoid surprises at birth. It is important not only to know the gender of your expected child but also the health condition and complications if any.However, some parents choose to skip the screening stage.
A screening test indicates whether the baby has a congenital disorder or not. Passing the test means the baby is healthy and no need for further examination. If the possibility of congenital disability is not ruled out, it is crucial to advance to the diagnostic test stage.
Diagnosis in this case involves urine test, blood test, and ultrasound scan. Diagnostic tests help in identifying the exact congenital disorder and possible causes.
Knowledge of the health condition of a child while still in the womb is vital in psychological preparation of the parents.
Also, the doctors can advise on how to manage the condition before childbirth. It also gives a medical specialist ample time to research and establish the best technique in handling the condition when the child is born. Moreover, some conditions require special treatment because they can be life threatening to both the mother and child.
Some children do not show any trace of abnormalities for years. While most of the signs and symptoms are evident and do not require a specialist eye, running tests is important before and after pregnancy. Just like any other disease, the earlier the condition is detected the higher chances of managing and probably suppressing the effects.
Chorionic Villus sampling (CVS)
This diagnostic test comes after screening results that indicate possible congenital disorders. Usually, CVS is performed between 10 and 13 weeks to confirm results from previous examination stages. CVS tests for all genetic conditions including Down syndrome.
It involves collecting cells from the placenta using a needle. The sample cells are subjected to analysis in a medical lab for a variety of tests.
After 15 weeks, doctors advise checking of the baby’s condition through this test. The diagnosis entails amniotic fluid, which is tested for Down syndrome and other genetic disorder possibilities. A local anesthetic and needle are used in collecting the amniotic fluid.
As mentioned, congenital disorders vary widely and it is impossible to pinpoint every condition. Tools used in diagnostics and screening tests are advancing by day to increase their effectiveness and accuracy.
Pregnancy is a complex period because it involves all hormones; it is difficult to pinpoint a condition to one cause. However, there are common causes.Although the causes can be categorized into environmental and genetic make-up, most causes are a combination of the two.
The increase in birth defects across the world has necessitated extensive research to identify specific causes; while there is commendable progress in the research process, there is still uncertainty. Usually, the cause is unknown.
However, the following genetic conditions are common causes Either too few or too many chromosomes, for instance, cause Down syndrome; the structure of chromosomes also contributes to some congenital disorders Gene mutation as a result of environmental factors or hormonal change
In cases where a parent with or without a disease interacts with a faulty gene, conditions such as Marfan syndrome develop
In recessive inheritance where both parents are free from the disease but undergo gene mutation, the fetus is bound to be affected.
Alcohol and other drugs are some of environmental causes of birth defects. Also, if a mother develops an infection during pregnancy, the baby is exposed to risks of contracting the disease.
The complexity goes as far as sensitivity to environmental factors. In most cases, this is a combination of environmental factors and genetic make-up.
In such cases, the fetus is sensitive to the environment, for instance, tobacco. Exposure to such factors lead to heart defects among other disorders.
Types of birth defects
A type of congenital disability depends on blood, gene, environment, and lifestyle of the mother. As such, there are various causes and types. Tests on existence in any of the defects is based on functionality of body organs and tissues.
Also, the common disorders are classified on this basis, condition of body organs. Classifying them based on causes would be the most accurate way but the variations are too wide.
On basis of an infant’s body, birth defects are classified into developmental and structural.
Structural birth defects entail deformities of body parts. In this case, a heart or vital body organ is unable to perform its primary function or performs dismally.
Common disorders in this regard include; heart defects, spina bifida, palate, and clubfoot. All of these involve abnormal formation of body organs.
In functional of developmental disorders, body systems are affected. Most of these defects are based on structural deformities that inhibit performance of certain body organs, which are key in running crucial body systems.
Developmental birth defects include; sensory problems, nervous system disorders, and metabolic difficulties. Most of these lead to sickle cell, cystic fibrosis, and Down syndrome.
Prevention of Congenital disorders
While most of congenital disorders are undetectable and unexpected, some measures can be taken before and during pregnancy to prevent occurrence of a health condition.
Adjusting lifestyle of an expectant woman with regards to foods and physical activities is one of the techniques to prevent congenital disorders.
Also, genetic tests can be taken prior to pregnancy to establish any defects and incompatibility. This is effective when you have a family history of congenital disability, tests can help to establish the extent of risks hence advice on how to manage the situation.
The process often involves genetic counselling before the test. It is important for a couple to understand the possible risks and results of their pregnancy.
Gene test as a prevention technique is also applicable on in-vitro fertilization (IVF). The uterus is tested 3 to 4 days before implantation. Doctors advise on risks of the process if any.
Other preventive tips for congenital disorders include;
Healthy diet in mid-years, which are considered productive years to increase folic acid in the body
Vaccination against rubella
Avoid pesticide-contaminated areas
Avoid alcohol, drugs, and tobacco during pregnancy
Consult a doctor on use of folic acid tablets; they can help if taken in the first trimester
Neonatal testing can also prevent congenital disorder. It involves testing blood, hormones, hearing, metabolism among other disorders including heart health.
While in this case the condition is already manifested, there are chances of subverting the effect because the body organs and tissues are still tender and highly responsive. The test is conducted few days after the baby is born.
The extent of infection determines suitability of a treatment method. Some conditions can be managed before birth while others may extend into a child’s life after birth. In some cases, the defects are permanent. However, most of the permanent defects are mild and do not have a significant effect on quality of life.
Treatment options include medication to reduce the effect or correct an abnormality. Surgery is also a common method of fixing structural defects. Besides, proper home care for an infant helps in treating congenital disorders.
Consult with your doctor on a suitable treatment option.