Pregnancy is one of the most precious times in a woman’s life while giving birth is one of nature’s wonders. But it’s also a time when to-be parents get the maximum advice – from well-meaning relatives, friends, and colleagues; also, in an information-loaded world, many pieces of advice float on the internet. As Dr Geetanjali Ingaale, Consultant – Paediatrics, Manipal Hospital, Kharadi, Pune, points out, “People frequently advise on what to do and what not to do during this time. Some advice is based on science, while others are just myths. Misconceptions often confuse the true nature of birth abnormalities, creating false beliefs that hamper support and understanding.” As the doctor points out, it’s important to know the difference between myths and facts to encourage the right knowledge in the community.
Birth Defects: Myths vs Facts
In the US, the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) observes January as Birth Defects Awareness Month. Below are a few myths and facts highlighted by Dr Geetanjali Ingaale that will provide essential information for improved comprehension of birth defects.
Myth 1: Birth Defects Are Only Due To Genetics
Fact: Genetics plays an important role in birth defects. However environmental factors, infections, and medications during pregnancy also play an important role. Understanding that many different factors contribute to a situation is important for detailed and thorough information.
Myth 2: Birth Defects Are Always Visible
Fact: Not every birth abnormality is visible; others affect internal organs or cognitive processes. Understanding these subtleties is essential for both early intervention and all-encompassing support.
Myth 3: Birth Defects Can Only Show Up As Physical Issues
Fact: Some birth defects may damage internal organs or mental abilities and are not always apparent. Understanding these hidden issues is necessary for immediate support and intervention.
Myth 4: Miscarriage Is A Consequence Of Eating Papaya
Fact: This deeply rooted myth in Indian culture prevents even the most knowledgeable people from eating papaya. The only green papaya with high latex concentrations that resemble labour-inducing chemicals like prostaglandins and oxytocin is the unripe or semi-ripe one. Yet, the latex level lowers as the papaya ripens, making it safe to eat. Therefore, a pregnant woman can safely eat ripe papaya without endangering the unborn child. Papaya regulates and guards against heartburn and constipation. Additionally, it improves gastrointestinal problems and bloating, which are frequent during pregnancy.
Preventing Birth Defects: Things to Be Cautious About
Dr Ingaale lists the following precautions that to-be parents should take during pregnancy and before:
Avoiding prenatal care: Regular check-ups during pregnancy are crucial for monitoring the baby’s development and identifying potential issues early on. Skipping appointments may lead to missed opportunities for intervention.
Ignoring environmental factors: Exposure to certain substances, such as tobacco, alcohol, and certain medications, can increase the risk of birth defects. It’s important to discuss lifestyle choices with healthcare providers to minimise risks.
Dismissing genetic counselling: Genetic counselling may provide insightful information to couples with a family history of birth defects or other risk factors. Ignoring this resource could lead to missed chances to take preventative action.
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