If you’re expecting a baby (or even if you’re not), you’re probably aware that obstetric ultrasound is commonly recommended at least once during pregnancy. Many parents-to-be look forward to their ultrasound appointment because this is the first time they’re able to get a glimpse of their growing child. While deciding whether or not you want to know your baby’s sex before it’s born might be the top question on your mind, the obstetric ultrasound will provide much more valuable information about your pregnancy and your child’s health and well being. One of the important functions of this test is to screen for birth defects so that parents and doctors can plan a course of action and prepare for any treatments that will be necessary before or soon after birth.
Take Steps to Prevent Birth Defects
While expecting parents rarely expect birth defects, they actually occur in 1 in every 33 births and are the leading cause of death in infants. Genetic and environmental factors play roles in the development of birth defects, but the absence of environmental or genetic risk factors does not ensure birth defects won’t occur. Prospective parents can, however, take steps to reduce the likelihood that their children will be affected by birth defects as well as prepare to address any health issues that are detected.
The National Birth Defects Prevention Network offers the following recommendations for mothers to increase their chances of having healthy babies:
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet free of raw meat and unpasteurized dairy and
- Supplementing with 400 micrograms of folic acid daily
- Avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs
- Avoiding other substances (such as environmental pollutants) that may harm a developing baby
- Washing hands frequently with soap and water to prevent infections
- Early and regular prenatal care
Early & Regular Prenatal Care
Scheduling prenatal care as soon as you know you’re pregnant gives you the best chance of catching any problems early and being able to use the most effective treatments. Going to every recommended visit allows your health care provider to give you the best possible advice at each stage of your pregnancy. Around the middle of your pregnancy (and perhaps at other times as well), your doctor or midwife will likely refer you for an ultrasound exam. During this visit, a radiologic technologist will take images, and a radiologist will examine them for a variety of features. Some are related directly to the pregnancy itself, such as
- Clues to gestational age of fetus (how far along you are)
- Presence of multiple fetuses
- Level of amniotic fluid
- Cervical conditions
At the same time, the radiologist will be on the lookout for signs of birth defects. This includes looking at the developing child’s basic anatomy to see if it’s developing normally and can also include screening for anomalies like Down syndrome and other chromosomal disorders, heart defects, and neural tube defects. Identifying these types of conditions before a child is born gives prospective parents a wider range of options and, sometimes, the ability to effectively treat conditions before or immediately after birth.
At Iowa Radiology, we strive to provide the information you need to make wise health care choices for yourself and your family. If you ever have a question or concern about a test at one of our clinics in Ankeny, West Des Moines, Clive, or downtown Des Moines, don’t hesitate to contact us. If you’d like to keep up to date on our blog and get valuable health information delivered to your inbox, click below to subscribe!
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