Top Ten Most Common Birth Defects

Birth defects account for approximately 120,000 babies born in the United States alone. Some of these defects are genetic, while others are brought on through environmental factors or a combination of both. In fact, some birth defects are so severe that they result in a baby’s death. No matter how serious any given birth defect is, it will have a major impact on the child’s, and your family’s, life.

Here are the top ten most common birth defects:

  1. Down’s Syndrome. The chance of giving birth to a child with this genetic disorder is increased with the mother’s age. Both men and women can transfer faulty genes to the child.
  2. Cleft Lip/Cleft Palate. Several factors determine the likelihood of bearing children with a cleft lip or palate. Family history, race, sex, parent obesity and smoking while pregnant all increase the risk.
  3. Congenital Heart Defect. The most common causes of congenital heart defects in newborns are family history and drinking while you’re pregnant. However, other factors are also considered such as diabetes and taking certain medications during pregnancy.
  4. Missing or Undeveloped Limbs. There is no known cause for this particular defect. However, during your pregnancy, taking certain medications or contracting various infections or viruses increase the risk.
  5. Stomach/Intestinal Defects. Younger, caucasian women are at a higher risk of having a baby with digestive problems. Smoking and drinking alcohol during your pregnancy also adds to this risk.
  6. Eye Defects. Nearsightedness and blindness are common amongst this group of birth defects. They are largely genetic, but there are some environmental factors involved as well.
  7. Spina Bifida. Having a family history of neural tube defects is largely responsible for Spina Bifida. Other risk factors while you’re pregnant are increased body temperature, pre-pregnancy obesity, vitamin B-9 deficiency, and diabetes.
  8. Sickle Cell Disease. This is another genetic defect that’s primarily found African-Americans. The chance of birthing a child with sickle cell disease is completely dependent on the parents having the trait in their genes.
  9. Autism. Autism affects all races, but boys are most likely to be born with some form. Parents who show minor issues with social or communication skills and who are older tend to have children with autism.

For the most part, watching what you put into your body decreases the odds of having a child with birth defects. Your doctor is able to identify most of these before your baby is born.

Second Trimester Tests

Waiting on Doctor


Pregnancy is a time where a woman can feel constantly poked and prodded. The fact of the matter is that the infant mortality rate has indeed declined in the west, thanks in large part to the variety of medical tests and screening procedures that can take place during pregnancy. The second trimester is the time that many of these tests and screening procedures are going to take place. While not every woman will, obviously, undergo every available test and screening that are out there during the second trimester, there are some regular tests and screening that will take place during the second trimester.

You should expect to have several lab tests and screenings take place during the second trimester, for example. It is very likely that your health care provider will want to test your urine for protein and for sugar. Your health care provider may wish to test your blood for low levels of iron, or to screen you for gestational diabetes. The screening for gestational diabetes that takes place during the second trimester is especially important, as recognizing gestational diabetes early is the best way to make sure that the pregnancy progresses in the way that it should.

An ultrasound is a common procedure for you to have during the second trimester. While it isn’t exactly a test, your health care provider will use an ultrasound to verify how your baby is growing, check out where the placenta is, and to look at the baby’s developing anatomy. An ultrasound will probably be performed during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy as well, although at those times your health care provider is looking for different sorts of things than she is looking for in the second trimester.

There are other tests and screening that can take place during the second trimester. You might have a blood test to screen for a variety of disorders in your baby, such as developmental or chromosomal sorts of disorders. If these blood tests indicate a problem, an amniocentesis may be required. Certainly, an amniocentesis is another type of test that takes place during the second trimester that can, with a greater degree of accuracy, screen for developmental or chromosomal disorders.

Prenatal Testing for the First, Second and Third Trimesters of Pregnancy

Blood Draw


Prenatal testing is one way for you to check in on the health of your baby during pregnancy. There are a number of different types of tests that you might undergo, each of which is designed for a different purpose. Some prenatal testing is done as part of the normal routine, such as a blood pressure test and a urine test. Other tests are only done during pregnancy if your doctor suspects there might be a problem with your baby.

The tests you might have during pregnancy vary from one trimester to the next. Let’s take a look at the trimesters of pregnancy, as well as what you might expect in terms of prenatal testing:

First Trimester

  • Blood tests. You will probably have a blood test when you first suspect you are pregnant in order to confirm the presence of hCG, the pregnancy hormone. This test may also check for risks for certain birth defects or heart trouble.
  • Urine tests. During pregnancy, your urine will be checked for various elements, including signs that there might be a problem with you or your baby.
  • Chorionic villus sampling (CVS). This test gathers tissue from around your baby in order to check for certain genetic conditions like Down syndrome. CVS usually takes place between weeks 10 and 12 of your pregnancy. If you’re older than 35, have a history of family genetic problems or if other tests indicate the possibility of birth defects your doctor may recommend this test.
  • Ultrasound. An early ultrasound may be done to make sure you’re pregnant and determine your baby’s gestational age.

Second Trimester

  • More blood tests. Second trimester blood tests look for other birth defects, and are usually done between week 15 and week 20.
  • Amniocentesis. Also done between the 15th and 20th week of pregnancy, this test looks for various genetic abnormalities.
  • Ultrasound. During the second trimester, your doctor will do an ultrasound to determine your baby’s gender and make sure she’s growing according to schedule.
  • Glucose screening. Between week 24 and 28 your doctor will check to see if you have symptoms of gestational diabetes.

Third Trimester

The only new test you’re likely to have during the third trimester is a group B strep test, which will check for a certain type of infection that can be passed to your baby during birth.

Choosing a Name For Your Baby

Ultrasound Scanning 2006-05-05

Naming your child is the very first gift you’ll give your child. Since you’ll be saying it a lot, you’ll want to be sure it’s a name you won’t get tired of hearing. Oddly enough, many children’s personalities grow to represent their name’s meaning. Choose your baby’s name well with the following suggestions.

Personal history and traditions

Your family may have naming customs you’d like to continue. Many families prefer to name a boy after his father. Other families name all their children using the same first letter. Whatever custom you decide on, be sure each child feels special by giving them their own name. Naming twins Robert and Roberta, for instance, can lead to potential problems.

Make lists of people you love, want to honor, and have special meanings

Cross the names off your list that either you or your partner don’t agree on. With the names, you both like, be sure to keep them. Your list will likely evolve.

Note gender affiliations

Names in today’s age aren’t necessarily gender-specific.

  • Avoid children’s names that are normally used by the opposite gender. Your son Dana, Ashley or Kelly may not be keen on being mistaken for a girl at school functions.
  • Male names throughout history, like Madison, are fine for girls. The name alone may not be enough to distinguish your child’s gender.
  • Neutral gender names like Pat or Chris sound masculine. However, many have alternative spellings for females; Bobbi and Toni, for example.

Aging and names

One crucial component with names is graceful aging. Just because a name is appropriate for a baby doesn’t mean it works when they’re older.

Ethnic names

Some names associate individuals with groups. Unfortunately, many of these groups are discriminated against. Having an ethnic name can make it challenging to find a job.

Consider your heroes

Fictional and real heroes are often name sources. For example, with the success of the “Harry Potter” series, “Hermione” and “Ronald” have become quite popular. On the other hand, you may look up to Mother Theresa and name your baby after her. Be aware, however, that some role models don’t cross over well into other cultures.

Traditional names are fine and good and may be desirable for many parents. Yet, there’s plenty of room for unique and quirky names. Whatever name you choose, remember your child is the one who lives with it. Ultimately, the choice is yours.

What to Do While Waiting for Your Baby Gender Results

Cover of "Waiting for Baby (The New Baby)...
Cover of Waiting for Baby (The New Baby)


That first 20 weeks or so of pregnancy, before you find out whether you’re going to have a boy or a girl, can be a bit stressful. While you’re going to love and care for that child no matter whether it’s a boy or a girl, you want to be able to plan ahead appropriately. It can also help if you start thinking about names, and even talking to your baby and calling him or her by name in the womb.

Here are some things you can do to pass the time while waiting for baby gender prediction results:

  • Talk with your partner about gender roles. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a boy to be involved in sports and hoping a girl will play with dolls. Yet, for many people, stereotypical gender roles can cause concern, as well. Talk with your partner and decide where you stand in the area of encouraging gender-specific behavior from your child.
  • Focus on your relationship. Regardless of whether you have a boy or a girl, you’re going to need to be solid in your relationship in order to be good parents. Spend some time communicating with one another about your thoughts and expectations, as well as your basic ideas about parenting.
  • Talk to your other children, too. You may be a little bit torn about whether you’re hoping for a boy or a girl, but chances are your other children have very strong opinions on the matter. Listen to what they have to say; obviously, there’s not anything you can do about your baby’s gender, but by talking to your children you’ll help to identify potential issues of concern once your baby is born. A toddler who specifically wants a little brother might even be angry at having a sister, if you don’t have these kinds of chats.
  • Check out some gender prediction myths. While gender prediction myths are only accurate 50% of the time (as with any other non-scientific gender-related test) they can be fun, and help encourage your imagination.

It’s no fun waiting for the results, but fortunately you’ll know with plenty of time to spare whether you’re having a boy or a girl.

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Essential Nursery Checklist for a Girl

You want your nursery to be perfect for your little bundle of joy, and once you can accurately predict your baby’s gender it becomes a whole lot easier. You’ll have plenty of design and decoration options available to you. Depending on your style and preferences you might have a pink explosion in the nursery with ponies and fairy princesses and ballerina shoes.

On the other hand, you might go for more neutral design choices, not wanting to put too much social stereotyping into the design. Animals, natural scenes, and interesting colors can be just as appropriate. (This also gives you the advantage of not having to wait to find out if your baby is a boy or a girl before decorating.)

Regardless of how you decorate, there are some essential components your little girl’s nursery must have:

  • Sleeping space. Your baby girl needs a flat, firm mattress. You’ll need to have a crib for that mattress, and it should be one in which the mattress fits snugly. You should be able to get just one finger between your baby girl’s mattress and the side of the crib. In addition, the crib slats need to be under 2.5 inches away from one another, and the top rails of the crib should be at least 24 inches above the top of the mattress. You’ll want fitted crib sheets, some receiving blankets and a heavier blanket or two as well.
  • The right sounds and lighting. A nightlight is helpful for you when you need to feed your newborn girl in the middle of the night. It will help you get her up to change her without waking her, as well. You also might consider something to make noise, such as a CD or MP3 player. If your baby has trouble sleeping, there are a number of baby sleep albums available that may help her get some rest.
  • A place to rock and feed. A rocking chair is the traditional choice, although you can rock your new baby girl in an armchair just as well if you need to.
  • The baby monitor. You need to be able to hear your little one at night, and a baby monitor helps you do that.

Add a few decorative accents and a changing table and you’ll have everything you need and want in your girl’s nursery.

Paternity Testing Before Delivery

dna paternity test?

If you find yourself in need of paternity testing for whatever reason, you have a choice to make. Paternity testing after your baby is born is much less invasive, much less expensive, and has less potential for problems such as miscarriage.

It’s important to understand your options for prenatal paternity testing so that you can make an informed decision. There are essentially two types of prenatal paternity testing that can occur. Both gather a sample of your baby’s DNA and are then compared to the DNA of the potential father.

About amniocentesis

Amniocentesis is generally performed during the second trimester of pregnancy, between the 14th and the 20th weeks. During an amniocentesis, your health care provider will utilize an ultrasound machine to help him guide a thin needle into your uterus, by way of your abdomen. This needle will draw out a little bit of amniotic fluid.  This amniotic fluid is then tested for DNA.

There are a few risks that go along with having amniocentesis. These include a chance of harm to the baby as well as a chance of miscarriage. You might also experience leaking of amniotic fluid, vaginal bleeding, or cramping.

Chorionic Villi Sampling

CVS is a procedure that can be done earlier in pregnancy, usually between week 10 and week 13. With CVS, your health care provider will insert a thin tube or needle into the vagina, through the cervix, to try to obtain little finger-like pieces of tissue attached to the uterine wall, known as chorionic villi. Chorionic villi comes from the same fertilized egg that your fetus comes from, and consequently has the same DNA makeup as your baby.

The risks involved in CVS are fewer, overall, than those involved in amniocentesis.

Know the law

Keep in mind, as well, that paternity tests notwithstanding, many states have laws about determining who is legally a baby’s father. In many states, the husband of a woman who becomes pregnant is legally the father, regardless of what the paternity testing says. In any case, without certain paperwork, a father’s name will not be listed on the baby’s birth certificate if he is not married to the mother.

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Essential Nursery Checklist for a Boy

Putting together a nursery can be a challenge on several levels. Not only are you faced with important design and decorating decisions, there’s also the little matter of actually carrying it out. To make matters worse, until you can accurately predict your baby’s gender you really have to do some waiting to see before you know what kind of design motifs you’re going to choose.

Once you’ve hit that 20 week prenatal appointment and have determined your baby’s gender, it’s time to get to work. If you’re having a boy, here are some of the essential nursery items you need to have in your baby boy’s room:

  • Crib. You’ve got to have somewhere for your baby to sleep. You want to make sure that the crib you pick isn’t under recall from the manufactuerer for safety reasons. The slats should be less than 2 ½ inches apart, with top rails at least 2 feet above the mattress.
  • Mattress. The mattress needs to be flat and firm. It should have a snug fit inside the crib, and you shouldn’t be able to get two full fingers between the crib and the mattress.
  • Blankets and bedding. You’ll need three or four fitted crib sheets, and some days you’ll use all of them. You’ll also need half a dozen lighter receiving blankets and a couple of heavier blankets if you live in a colder climate.
  • Chair for rocking and feeding. Rocking chairs and armchairs are both good choices here.
  • A noise maker. A music box, a CD player or even a white noise machine can all help baby sleep at night.
  • A mobile. If you choose to have a mobile in your baby boy’s room, you’ll want to stick with black and white images. These are stimulating for baby, but won’t be as likely to be a distraction or overly stimulating.
  • A nightlight. This is as much for you as it is for your baby boy. You want to avoid stubbed toes, and in many cases you’ll want to be able to get baby up and change him without waking him with too much light.
  • Baby monitor. This lets you hear baby at night, and is a real must-have.

You’ll want to add specific types of décor for your boy, as well. This doesn’t have to be traditional blue; you can use various themed elements such as sports or cars, or you can choose more neutral themes such as nature and animals. Once you know your baby’s gender, you can start making some of those important decisions, too.


Ready to Be a Mom

Many women hit a certain point in life where the desire to be a mom becomes almost overwhelming. Why is this, exactly? Maybe it’s because your friends and family seem to all be having babies; maybe it’s some primal urge that helps the human race go on. Maybe it’s cultural expectations that pressure women to have children, or maybe it’s just because you love kids. Maybe it’s all of the above. Whatever the root cause, it’s very common.


Before you start deciding whether you want a little boy or a little girl, however, you should be ready. Here are some indicators that you’re ready to take on the challenges that motherhood presents:

  • You want to be a mom. This really is the first sign you may be ready. Many young girls fantasize about motherhood and taking care of a baby. Truth be told, taking care of a baby doll is a lot different than taking care of a real baby. It’s both more responsibility and more joy than you can possibly imagine. Talk to other moms about their experiences and do some research so you know what really is involved in being a mom.

  • You’re responsible. You need to be able to take care of yourself before you can take care of a child. If you can keep up with your bills, have met your educational goals or are well on the way, meet expectations at work and still have time to do other things, you may be just about ready. On the other hand, if you’re making decisions daily that you regret later, you might spend some more time getting ready before you jump in.

  • You love kids. Now, to be sure, most parents believe that their own children are much better-behaved and well-adjusted than their peers. It’s all right; that’s what parents are supposed to think. But if every crying baby at the supermarket makes you cringe, you might think about spending some quality time around babies before you have one of your own. Volunteer for nursery duty at your religious institution or during a social event and get a good feel for the little darlings first.

  • You’re ready to give some things up. You’re going to give up your body for nine months as host to your baby. You’re going to have a lot less free time than before. You’re going to be on a restrictive diet during pregnancy. Make sure you know what’s involved before you agree to it.

You’re the best judge of whether or not you’re ready to be a mom. Measuring yourself up against some of these criteria can help you make that decision.