One of the most heartbreaking things that can happen to a Mom during pregnancy is finding out that she is carrying a baby with abnormalities.
Birth defects can be caused by a multitude of things. They may be genetic defects that were inherited from either Mom’s or Dad’s side or both. Sometimes they’re due to mutations in the genes of the egg or sperm cell, caused by exposure to radiation, age or even just bad luck. Yet other conditions can be caused by nutritional deficiencies during the pregnancy. In some situations, after all, access to all the right nutrients or even vitamins can be difficult for the expecting Mom. Yet others can be caused by exposure to chemicals or toxins during the pregnancy. Sometimes Mom might not know of the exposure, as with pesticides, and in other cases she might be consciously exposed to it, as with cigarette smoke.
In any case, finding out about a defect can have a huge impact on the outcome of the pregnancy, as well as mom’s reproductive decisions in the long run. All Moms who find out that the baby they're expecting has an abnormality will have to go through a series of decisions, some of them depending on Mom’s personal beliefs, and others will have to be weighed out in terms of their pros and cons of her situation.
We’ve compiled a list of fifteen things that Mom might want to consider if she finds out that she’s carrying a baby that has a birth defect.
15 Getting Further Tests Done
During prenatal checkups, mom will have to go through a number of blood tests and ultrasounds that can help detect possible abnormalities in the baby in Mom's womb. These screening tests are standard in many countries around the world, and help immensely in identifying birth defects – and correcting them – as early as possible.
But when one of mom’s test results comes back positive, it’s important to first keep a level head. There is still, after all, a chance of it being a false positive. As such, the doctor will likely ask mom to go through another layer of testing, that is, one or more tests that are more specific and more accurate than the first to confirm the diagnosis. These tests may also be somewhat more invasive, which is why they’re not the standard first-line tests for pregnant Moms and are only done if the less invasive tests are positive. Such tests include amniocentesis and chorionic villi sampling.
14 Understanding The Condition
If further testing reveals that the little one in Mom’s womb does have a birth defect, it’s important that Mom and the family work to understand the little one’s condition so that they become better equipped to address it. Most likely, the doctor will explain the condition to the family and present them with options for treatment, if there are any.
However, Mom might also want to do a little bit more research in her own time to better understand her baby’s condition. After all, she might want to take a peek at perspectives other than the medical one. She might want to search about what life is like for Moms going through the same thing that she is, or for those who have survived or are currently living with their birth defect. Obtaining different views of her situation can help her immensely in making better choices for herself and her child.
13 If The Condition Is Incompatible With Life
There are a number of birth defects, including anencephaly, thanatophoric dysplasia and triploid syndrome, that are outright incompatible with life. That is, there is a high likelihood that Mom will suffer a miscarriage or a stillbirth, since the body often recognizes these birth defects and prevents them from progressing further. In some cases, however, there is a possibility that the baby will reach term and will be born. But since she does not have normal mechanisms for survival, she is likely to die within days. In this case, there is nothing else that can be done but to ensure that she is comfortable and pain-free during her short life.
There is, of course, the question of whether to continue to carry the pregnancy (which we’ll talk more about in a bit), but, most of all, the family must also be given time to grieve for this child that they were expecting.
12 If Genetic Counselling Is A Good Idea
If the abnormality has been determined to be a genetic defect, Mom and Dad might want to go through genetic counselling. Genetic counselling basically has four components. The first is a thorough assessment of family history and possibly some genetic tests, to see just how prevalent genetic defects are. The second component involves explaining to Mom and Dad the nature of the genetic defects that their children are at risk of, as well as what this might mean for their lives. Third, there will be a discussion on how to manage these defects through both treatment and family planning. Finally, the family will be given supportive measures to help them cope with the reality of the risks.
Genetic counselling can be extremely helpful for parents, allowing them a sense of control over the situation. After all, even if genetics can be unpredictable, there are still a number of things that both the family and modern medicine can offer to help everyone handle the problem.
11 If Abortion Is An Option
One real option to consider for Moms carrying babies with abnormalities is abortion. If the child is to be born with a congenital disability, some places allow the mother a choice between abortion or counselling to prepare the family to raise a child with a disability. Some may also allow for an abortion if the baby’s condition is inherently incompatible with life. It’s worth checking with local laws, however, as in some places the only circumstance in which abortion is legal is when Mom’s life is also in danger.
For Moms who do have the benefit of choice, however, it can still be a tough one. Each individual Mom has to take in consideration many things, including the impact of having a child with that specific congenital disability in her life, as well as the resources that the family will need to help manage the care of said child. It can be a tough call, but in the end each family must decide for itself as to the best route for them.
10 That Pregnancy Still Requires Self-Care
In the flurry of getting tested for the baby’s birth defects and the emotional strain of dealing with the news, it can be easy for Mom to forget that she still needs to take care of herself. Overthinking, after all, can affect so many aspects of Mom’s life. Some Moms are not able to eat or sleep properly when they hear the news. In others, it may trigger anxiety attacks or depression.
Through all this, it’s important for Mom to remember to just take things one day at a time. It’s important to make sure that she eats right, even if it means eating small meals throughout the day rather than large ones. It’s important that she finds enough time to sleep, or engage in activities that relax her enough that she can have some rest. After all, she is still pregnant and still has all the needs of a pregnant woman to consider.
9 If Mom Will Be Able To Care For The Baby
If Mom decides to keep the child, it’s important for her and her family to think about how they are to care for a baby with that specific condition. After all, it’s better to have it all planned out now, rather than to scramble about looking for solutions later. It’s important to, first, take into consideration the baby’s specific condition. This can dictate as to whether or not the little one requires extra care.
For instance, if the little one has a condition in which she will have to stay in the hospital for extended periods of time, the parents have to carve out a plan that takes this into consideration. They may have to look for competent babysitters, or purchase equipment that can make things easier for them. They may require extra training in pediatric first aid, or how to deal with seizures. In addition, they’ll also need to plan out how they can do all that while they care for their other children as well!
8 If There Are Available Treatments
Another thing that parents will have to factor in while making decisions about their baby is the treatment that is available for the little one’s specific condition. We are fortunate, nowadays, to have such a wide range of treatments such that conditions that were once a death sentence for the baby (and, possibly, the mother) are now treatable.
Some conditions may, for instance, require a lifetime of medication, such as with hypothyroidism. Yet others, as is often the case with congenital heart defects, can be corrected with a surgical procedure or a series of surgeries. In yet others, there might not be a cure, but the symptoms may still be manageable, which is pretty much the case with Down’s Syndrome. If there are several options for the child’s treatment, the parents might have to weigh the pros and cons of each one and make a decision as to which option to pursue.
7 If It's Possible To Save Up For Treatment
One major thing that parents seldom think through, but they may really need to, is the resources they’ll have to devote to the baby’s treatment. This is crucial because in some cases, the little one’s life or death will hang upon having treatment as soon as possible after childbirth. In other cases, it could be dangerous for the child to stop any continuous treatment that is required.
As such, having a baby with congenital abnormalities can be a huge drain on the family’s resources, especially if they’re unprepared. It might be extremely helpful if the baby’s condition is covered by insurance. Otherwise, however, the family will need to generate enough resources for treatment. Fortunately, congenital abnormalities are often detected early enough during the pregnancy that the family often has time to save up and get things together in anticipation of the baby’s treatment. After all, starting early is the family’s best defense against misery!
6 If There Are Risks For Life-Long Infections
Some kids with congenital defects will have, either temporarily or permanently, an increased risk for infection. As such, the family will have to take a number of precautions to ensure that the little one does not come in contact with dangerous microorganisms. The family will also need to undergo training from medical personnel on procedures that decrease the risk for infection. This will often mean that all family members will have to scrub themselves clean and cover themselves before even touching the little one.
What’s more, sometimes these kids may not be eligible to receive vaccines or there is a higher chance that the vaccine will not activate their immune system enough. In this case, the child will be reliant on herd immunity, or the assurance that all other kids around her have been vaccinated. This can be tough, considering that some parents opt not to vaccinate their kids, and it would thus be a danger if the little one exposed to them.
5 If The Disability Is Manageable
For parents of children with congenital disabilities, preparing to raise a child that can effectively cope with her disability is a must. Depending on what’s in store, the parents can, as early as possible, opt to learn sign language, or attend a class or support group of parents who are dealing with the same thing. They can look up any assistive devices that they can offer the child in the future or, perhaps, look into innovative ways in which people with similar disabilities cope.
Most of all, however, it’s important for them to be ready to deal with the emotional strain. They will have to prepare the baby’s brothers and sisters to understand the little one better. And children with disabilities are prone to ridicule and bullying, especially in communities where disability is still poorly understood. It can be a challenge to deal with all of these things but, ultimately, it is necessary for the child’s well-being.
4 If There Are Support Systems
One thing that helps parents immensely is having strong support systems. First and foremost among these, of course, is family. Having the baby’s grandparents, aunts and uncles nearby can be valuable in getting both emotional support, as well as a little bit of backup whenever needed. Having close friends who provide encouragement and assistance can be great for either parent’s sanity, too.
In dealing with the baby’s specific condition, support groups, both local and online can be extremely helpful in getting specific and sound advice for the little one’s care. After all, those who have been through the same thing probably have some crafty tips and tricks that sometimes doctors can’t even dream up. Online groups, in particular, have large followings these days. This is because many babies with similar conditions may not necessarily be located close together, geographically. Through the online platforms, parents can more easily reach out to others with just a click of the mouse.
3 If There Will Be Future Risks
Sometimes, congenital abnormalities come with risks. In the case of children with progressive muscular dystrophy, for instance, the chances are that the muscle weakness will slowly spread until it reaches their vital organs. As of now, there is no known cure for it. It’s important for parents who might find themselves in this situation to be ready for this, both emotionally and resource-wise. Another example is with surgery for congenital heart disease. Depending on the type of heart defect, the risk of the surgery could either be small or exceedingly high. One study on more than ten thousand children with congenital heart disease, for instance, found that up to a third of all these children would experience complications, even when controlling for other risk factors.
In addition, having family history of genetic illness will, of course, affect the family’s chance of having healthy babies. As such, each future pregnancy must also be well planned to improve odds.
2 If Heartbreak Is Inevitable
Whether Mom chooses to abort the pregnancy or have the child, there is always the possibility of heartbreak. Depending on the little one’s condition, this could even happen repeatedly. And the impact on the family can be very intense, especially if they are ill-prepared for it. The emotional stress can certainly put a strain on both Mom and Dad, perhaps even on their marriage as well.
If the load is too much, the family might want to opt for counselling or even therapy. This can help each member deal with their own emotions, and cope in a way that doesn’t damage their relationship with other members of the family. It’s important to remember that tragedy and stress do not have to define the family. It is entirely possible to find contentment and even happiness in even the most challenging of situations. It’s just that sometimes, the family may need a little bit of help to do this.
1 If Communities Are Available
Finally, one thing that families of babies with congenital abnormalities might want to consider is to be involved in communities of kids that are similarly affected. For one thing, this can allow them to both offer and receive support from other people who are engaged in the same cause. It also gives the community a collective voice, for instance, against bullying or support for policies that benefit children with disabilities.
They can also become involved in advocacy and medical research, through awareness raising or fundraisers. It might be worth looking for a Foundation dedicated to the specific cause. After all, research done today could possibly pave the way for a cure or, at least, an improved quality of life for those who suffer from the same condition in the future. Involvement not only improves the family’s support system, it’s also incredibly fulfilling to be part of a movement that aims to make lives of children like their own better.