Wed, Aug 21, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Pregnant women urged to beware birth defects

By Liao Hsueh-ju and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A baby born with an extra finger is pictured at Ton-yen General Hospital in Hsinchu County on Saturday.

Photo: Liao Hsueh-ju, Taipei Times

Women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant should be alert to potential environmental hazards, exercise care with their diet and medications, and know their family’s genetic history to prevent birth defects, a Hsinchu-based obstetrician said on Saturday.

Ton-yen General Hospital obstetrician Wu Chiung-hui (吳瓊惠) discussed the case of a Hsinchu woman who was 22 weeks pregnant with her second child when an ultrasound scan showed that her fetus had an extra digit growing on its right thumb.

The primary cause of polydactyly — having an extra finger or toe — is genetic mutation, Wu said.

Nonhereditary causes of genetic mutation in fetuses include exposure to unsafe levels of radiation, use of cosmetics that contain retinoic acids or the medication mifepristone, which is used to induce abortions, she said.

The mother was over 35 at the time, and had asked for a level-two ultrasound when she was 12 weeks pregnant, Wu said.

Subsequent tests revealed no other genetic anomalies and the woman gave birth to a healthy child six weeks later, in June, she said.

Doctors advised that the mother have the baby’s extra digit surgically removed after the baby turns one, adding that the procedure is safe and not likely to affect the baby’s dexterity, she said.

Medical literature suggests one in 500 infants are born with polydactyly, and about 90 percent of such cases involve an extra thumb, while the rest are usually excess fingers on both hands, she said.

The condition is more likely to occur in males, and on the hands rather than the feet, she added.

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