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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona babies’ defects studied

More than 1,000 Arizona infants are born with birth defects every year.  

An average of 1,018 infants per year were born with birth defects in the state of Arizona between 2003 and 2007, according to the Arizona Birth Defects Monitoring Program, a part of the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Common birth defects include cardiac defects, cleft lip palates and Down syndrome, said Dr. Timothy Flood, the medical director of the Bureau of Public Health Statistics at the Arizona Department of Health Services. In general, the cause of most birth defects is unknown, he said.

“”Some things are genetic, and then some things are related to our personal habits or environment,”” he said.

Activities such as smoking and eating certain foods can contribute to whether or not a baby is born with a birth defect, Flood said.  A good diet can lower the risk of certain birth defects, but some birth defects run in families.

In addition, obesity in pregnant mothers can sometimes increase the chances of having a baby with a birth defect. Obesity in the parent could increase the chances of the child being obese later in life, he said.

“”We are concerned about that because the prevalence of obesity is increasing,”” Flood said.

Age is also a contributor to babies born with birth defects. Teen mothers are at a higher risk for having babies with a condition called gastroschisis, Flood said.

“”Gastroschisis is a defect where the intestines of the baby are born outside the baby’s body wall,”” he said.

The consumption of alcohol is more common in pregnant mothers than one would expect, he said. The ratio of pregnant mothers that drink heavily to the number of mothers that drink minimally has stayed constantly at a low level over the past few years. Drinking causes brain damage in newborn babies, but the effect of alcohol is not seen until a few years after birth, Flood said.

“”Nonetheless, you know, it’s important that we pass the message that alcohol and pregnancy really don’t go together,”” Flood said.

The Arizona Department of Health Services also partners with the UA to document how common the effects of alcohol are in babies, he said. The Arizona Pregnancy Riskline, a non-profit group based at the UA, aims to assist pregnant women with issues they may have, according to the College of Pharmacy website.

Flood supports folic awareness, as does Dee Quinn, who works with the Riskline and is a clinical lecturer at the UA.

“”For women who are planning a pregnancy, we suggest they supplement their diet with folic acid, found in over-the-counter vitamins. This reduces the chance the child will have a condition called spina bifida,”” Quinn wrote in an email.

The riskline also provides information to women on how the substances they use during pregnancy may affect their pregnancy.

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