How To Avoid Chromosomal Abnormalities in Pregnancy
Chromosomal abnormalities may develop early in pregnancy before a woman even knows that she is pregnant. Although the risk of having a baby with a chromosomal abnormality is higher for women who are 35 years of age or older, there are ways to lower this risk [1, 2]. Recommendations that help reduce the occurrence of abnormalities include [1, 3]:
- Speaking with a health professional at least three months before becoming pregnant to discuss medical history and medication use
- Eating a healthy diet that includes folic acid-rich foods, such as grains, oranges, leafy greens, peanuts, and fortified breakfast cereals
- Maintaining a healthy weight before and during pregnancy, and avoiding smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking recreational drugs
- Taking a prenatal vitamin daily that provides at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid for at least three months before trying to conceive
Most prenatal supplements contain folic acid, but the body has to first convert it to a biologically active form called 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF) . This conversion process usually causes some of the folic acid to be lost. Forte Prenatal+ Supplement contains 1000 mcg of 5-MTHF, which means the body can absorb and use it right away. A larger serving also ensures that unborn babies get the amount they need for proper growth and development. This prenatal formulation also supplies essential vitamins and minerals that both mom and baby need, such as vitamins A, C, and D3, as well as B vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc, vanadium, and more. Forte Prenatal+ also contains fish oil, which provides powerful fatty acids that are key building blocks for a baby’s brain and other organs .
Even if a proper diet and prenatal vitamin supplementation are maintained, not all chromosomal abnormalities can be avoided or prevented. However, managing pre-existing medical conditions, adopting healthy behaviors, and gaining a better understanding of chromosomal abnormality risk improves the chances of having a healthy baby.
What Are Chromosomal Abnormalities?
Chromosomal abnormalities refer to problems or defects that occur on one of the 23 pairs of chromosomes—the genes that contain instructions for our structural makeup. Babies receive one set of 23 chromosomes from their mother and the other set of 23 chromosomes from their father for a total of 46 chromosomes . An abnormality can alter the number, structure, or genetic makeup of the chromosomes.
Here are a few of the most commonly diagnosed chromosomal abnormalities [1, 6]:
- Down Syndrome – a condition also known as trisomy 21 that develops when a baby has one extra chromosome.
- Fragile X Syndrome – a condition that is passed down from a mother, particularly to boys. It is the result of DNA defects on the X chromosome that comes from a baby’s mother.
- Klinefelter Syndrome – a health issue that occurs in boys who are born with an extra X chromosome (XXY).
- Turner Syndrome – an abnormality that develops when one of the two X chromosomes a baby girl inherits is partly or completely missing.
- Noonan Syndrome – a condition that is caused by a gene abnormality on chromosome 12. It may or may not be inherited, and both girls and boys may develop this syndrome.
- Triple X Syndrome – the most common chromosomal abnormality in females. This syndrome develops when three X chromosomes are inherited instead of two.
- XYY Syndrome – an abnormality that occurs when a baby boy is born with an extra Y chromosome.
Most of these syndromes can be detected through screening tests during pregnancy. The results of the tests can help families make important decisions regarding the specific type of treatment and care their baby will need. Early ultrasounds that are generally performed during prenatal visits may also demonstrate signs of chromosomal abnormalities during pregnancy. If a genetic defect is suspected, more specific tests such as amniocentesis, cordocentesis, or chorionic villus sampling may be recommended .
Signs of abnormalities that may be observed on an ultrasound include:
- Cleft lip or palate