Once an egg is fertilized during conception, it takes approximately six to nine days for the fetus to implant in the uterine lining. Once this occurs, a blood supply will then develop and exist between the mother and her child until the time of delivery. Should you be exposed to any type of teratogen during pregnancy, it is easy for the substance to directly harm your unborn child via exposure through your shared blood supply.
Generally speaking, teratogens are believed to have the ability to affect a growing fetus as early as ten to fourteen days post-conception. If a medical professional failed to advise you about potentially harmful substances during your pregnancy, that health care provider should be held accountable for the harm your baby suffered. For more information about teratogen exposure, please call Stern Law, PLLC for free at (800) 462-5772.
How are teratogenic-related birth defects diagnosed?
There are a number of ways in which a medical professional can determine whether an unborn child is suffering from birth defects. The preferred specific test or procedure depends upon the nature of the suspected condition:
- Ultrasound – There are a variety of types of ultrasounds – including specialized or targeted ultrasounds – that are able to produce images of a child in utero. This means the technology can target a suspected issue, such as abnormal fetal development and associated birth defects.
- Amniocentesis – This is a procedure where a syringe is inserted into the uterus in order to extract a sample of the amniotic fluid that surrounds and protects a growing fetus. This procedure is typically performed after the 15th week of pregnancy, which is able to diagnose certain fetal genetic conditions, such as neural tube defects as well as brain and spinal cord abnormalities.
- Cordocentesis – Also referred to as percutaneous umbilical blood sampling, this procedure involves the extraction and testing of blood from the umbilical cord. This test is usually performed after the 18th week of pregnancy and is able to identify certain fetal chromosomal abnormalities.
- Amniocentesis – This test is administered to a pregnant woman where amniotic fluid is tested for fetal abnormalities and conditions.
- Chorionic villus sampling – This form of prenatal diagnostic testing involves the removal of tissue to from the fetal sac in order to determine the existence of fetal abnormalities
Can teratogenic-related birth defects be prevented?
The good news is that many birth defects associated with teratogens can be prevented, as described below:
- Consult with your doctor concerning which over-the-counter and prescription medications are safe to consume during pregnancy, and which should be avoided – If you are planning a pregnancy, it’s highly recommended that you consult with your doctor regarding any over-the-counter and prescription drugs you currently take that could be harmful to your unborn child. If a doctor recommends a certain drug or supplement, there is nothing wrong with investigating the safety of the substance before consumption, as doctors can and sometimes do make mistakes. Specifically, you can visit the FDA’s website for more information on teratogenic substances and pregnancy.
- If you work with dangerous chemicals and substances, you may speak with your supervisor or human resources department about employment alternatives during your pregnancy – Perhaps you can temporarily pursue a position that does involve teratogenic exposure for the duration of your pregnancy, and then resume the former position once your child is born.
- Do not consume fish that are high in mercury – Shark, tuna, mackerel, swordfish and tilefish are examples to be avoided.
- Do not use chemicals that may harm your child – This includes pesticides, fungicides, rodenticides, or harsh cleaning products.
- Do not smoke, use drugs or consume alcohol during pregnancy – These teratogens greatly increase the risk of fetal birth defects and other life threatening conditions. With this in mind, avoid exposure to second hand smoke, given that it can also adversely affect the health and welfare of an unborn child.
- Do not change cat litter or go near a litter box during pregnancy – Exposure to cat feces can lead to a serious and life threatening parasitic condition known as toxoplasmosis, which is also associated with certain types of birth defects.
- Take at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day – Consume supplements recommended by your doctor and foods rich in folate.
- Speak with a doctor regarding which vaccinations – Find out which are safe and recommended during pregnancy.
- Prevent infections – Certain maternal infections can cause certain abnormalities in your unborn child. The simple way to prevent infection and the spread of disease is through consistently washing hands and avoiding others who may be sick.
- Monitor and manage your blood sugar levels – Uncontrolled maternal blood sugar levels may increase the chance of fetal abnormalities should the situation remain unaddressed. If you have diabetes before pregnancy or were diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it is important that she speak with your doctor concerning the ways in which she can stabilize your blood sugar.
- Seek regular prenatal care – Regardless of the circumstances, women who seek regular prenatal care during pregnancy are less likely to experience complications. However, should complications arise, regular prenatal monitoring and care can help prevent the serious effects of certain conditions should they remain undiagnosed/untreated throughout your pregnancy.
- Avoid consuming undercooked meat and wash all vegetables thoroughly – Before consuming these foods, prepare them properly, as they could lead to sickness and infection that increase the likelihood of birth defects to occur in your unborn child. This includes washing cutting boards and utensils that have come in contact with raw meat and vegetables.
Perhaps a doctor unknowingly prescribed a drug during your pregnancy that you believe caused your child’s birth defects. Or, maybe you were administered a dose of the wrong medication by an overworked and unfocused hospital staff member. Our firm has seen situations like these all too often, and we know the toll medical negligence can have on families.
If your child suffered a birth defect due to teratogen exposure during your pregnancy, please contact Stern Law, PLLC (800) 462-5772 for more information about your legal rights. Our firm is available to take your call free of charge.