When following the annals of medical science is it somewhat discouraging to a woman of childbearing years to note just how much can go wrong during the nine months that the infant is forming. While a large number of birth defects is benign, such as birth marks, there are a few that are considered to be so serious that the infants chance of survival is almost zero.
Yet having said that, stories of miraculous recoveries and the most egregious medical errors that misdiagnosed laboratory findings and almost led to the abortions of perfectly healthy fetuses are giving pause to the blind belief in medical science, and thus if your unborn child is diagnosed with birth defects affecting the brain, you will be wise to do copious research before deciding on a course of action.
Birth defects affecting the brain fall into a number of categories, only some of which are incompatible with life.
- The most severe and most traumatic is anencephaly. The infant presents with the brain exposed, and most commonly is missing a large portion of it. Generally speaking, the childs chance of survival for more than a few hours after birth is exceedingly low and virtually non-existent. While prevention is not guaranteed, you can increase your odds of avoiding this condition by taking folic acid supplementation prior to becoming pregnant. In addition to the foregoing, if you are undergoing drug treatment for epilepsy or diabetes, it is vital to discuss with your physician all options available for alternative treatments.
- Prior to developing into anencephaly, a fetus may be diagnosed with exencephaly, a condition that describes the unborn childs brain as being located outside of the skull cavity. Over time, the brain tissue will dissolve and be absorbed by the amniotic fluid and the diagnosis may progress to anencephaly. Once again, folic acid supplementation preferably before conception has been found to play a major role in the prevention of this birth defect.
- Microcephaly is the one brain disorder that presents a survivable birth defect affecting the brain, yet it is insidious in that it sometimes does not become apparent until the first year of life. The childs head will not grow in proportion with the rest of the body and instead will appear smaller. While the facial area will develop normally, the brain and the rest of the skull will remain small, thus often becoming associated with mental retardation and in severe cases a drastic reduction of life expectancy. Associated with chromosomal anomalies running in families, maternal alcoholism, and also diabetes as well as rubella, microcephaly is more preventable than other birth defects affecting the brain.
- Macrocephaly is the opposite of microcephaly and is usually not seen as a stand alone condition but instead associated with a host of other birth defects.
- Prior to the onset of macrocephaly is megalencephaly which may present at birth or become evident during the first years of a childs life. Instead of focusing on the childs head size, the weight of the brain is considered to be abnormal in that it is far too heavy for a child of infant size.