The Doctors: Washington Birth Defects
I’m pretty sure after this segment, there wasn’t a dry eye in The Doctors studio. In recent years, there’s been a rise in birth defects in three counties in rural Washington. One mother who was faced with having a child with these birth defects, Andrea Jackman, said she was outraged no one had told her about the rise in defects. Her daughter Olivia was born with a rare birth defect called Spina Bifida, where the spinal cord fails to form properly in the womb.
Olivia is one of 27 cases that the Washington Department of Health is investigating. 23 of those children suffered from Anencephaly, where a baby is born without a large portion of the brain. That rate is out of 27,000 births in the area between 2010 and 2013, which gives the area a rate of 8.4 per 10,000 births, higher than the national average of 2.1 out of 10,000 births.
The Drs TV: What Causes Spina Bifida?
Andrew Jackman’s pregnancy was a bit of a surprise, but once she found out, she was overjoyed. At 19 weeks, she had a blood test that came back showing that one of her hormone levels was four times higher than it should’ve been. In the ultrasound, the picture showed what looked like a bubble on her lower back.
Doctors were certain it was Spina Bifida. Doctors initially told Andrea that Olivia would live out her life in a wheelchair, or even be born brain dead. They gave her the option to terminate if she wanted to. “But in the end, I decided that if she was going to die, it wasn’t going to be by my hand,” Andrea Jackman said.
The Drs TV: Birth Defects Cluster
Right after Olivia was born, she had to be put in intensive care. Doctors were able to close the opening on her back. That’s when she found out that the media wanted to do a story on the birth defects cluster. Andrea said she was very upset no one had said anything to her at all about the birth defects cluster.
There’s a list of things that people are saying are causing the birth defects cluster, and Andrea said she checked off every single one of them. She drinks the well water, she lived in the middle of an apple orchard, she had pesticides within 20 feet of her house, and she lives in the same state as as a nuclear power plant.
Now, doctors say Olivia will probably be able to walk, but she might need a leg brace to help her. She could also have problems mentally, but it’s a waiting game to see. Andrea said if she had only known about the birth defects cluster, she could’ve done something differently and avoided all the things she did while pregnant, like drink well water and live in the apple orchard. But she had no way of knowing.
The Doctors: What Is Spina Bifida?
Dr. Jim Sears said that Spina Bifida is the most common permanently disabling birth defect in the United States. It’s common enough that most pediatricians have a few child patients with this. Spina Bifida is a defect in the neural tube. The neural tube is what eventually becomes the brain and the spinal column in the womb. If for some reason there is a defect in that neural tube, depending on where the defect happens, Spina Bifida could be anything from a minor annoyance to a serious and devastating condition. If the defect is up high, the baby could be born without a brain which is fatal, but if the defect is further down the tube, the results could be more mild or severe.
The Doctors: How Can You Prevent Spina Bifida?
Spina Bifida is more common with obese mothers or have diabetes or a Folic Acid deficiency or are exposed to nitrate-containing pesticides. In Andrea Jackman’s case, she drank well water possibly infected with the pesticides. Andrea said she was outraged by the lack of information given to her surrounding the surge of birth defects.
Dr. Rachael Ross said that mothers who are trying to get pregnant are often given Folic Acid while they’re still trying to avoid the birth defect in the womb. Since Andrea Jackman’s pregnancy was a surprise, by the time she found out it was too late to take the Folic Acid. Dr. Travis Stork said she’d never be able to prove cause and effect, but that medical personnel have a responsibility to inform people of potential health concerns like this. The moment doctors suspected pesticides are a growing danger to mothers in Washington, they should’ve informed their patients.