Fighting Birth Defects: It Isn’t Just For Women Anymore

Source: CDC.gov Preconception

To help ensure a healthy pregnancy, preconception health is important for both parents. Babies inherit one copy of each gene from each of their parents. Genes contain the instructions that tell the cells of the body how to grow and work. So whether they are inherited from the mother’s egg or the father’s sperm, damage to the genes can affect a baby’s development.

Some risk factors can increase the risk for damage to genetic information in a man’s sperm and can therefore affect the developing baby. They include chemotherapy drugs, ionizing radiation exposure, drug abuse, too much alcohol, smoking (including secondhand smoke), air pollution, and obesity.

bDefectsMaleekMaddieAs men age, sperm can decrease in quality and may not repair damage as well as when men are younger. In particular, men over age 45 years are more at risk to these types of changes to the sperm.

Plan your pregnancy with your partner. For example, taking the B vitamin folic acid daily is important for the prevention of major birth defects of a baby’s brain and spine. Lack of folic acid in men as well as women has also been shown to be linked with birth defects, so both parents should begin taking 400mcg of folic acid daily starting at least a month before conceiving.

Even if your job involves some exposure hazards, you can protect yourself and stay safe at work by learning about the hazards, protecting yourself from exposure, avoiding bringing the hazards home, and requesting a health evaluation.

Sometimes a man is born with problems that affect his sperm. Other times, problems start later in life due to illness or injury. If you are concerned about fertility, talk with your doctor or another health professional.

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