Prevention of Mental Retardation

The degree to which MR can be prevented has grown with the increased quality and quantity of medical technology, as well as the amount of education presented to expectant mothers. Technology allows medical staff access to the baby in the uterus. The am-niotic fluid can be tested to determine some forms of defect in the fetus. Ultrasound allows the medical staff to see the baby in the uterus and determine if there is a physical defect. If a defect is found through one of these technologies, early intervention can be implemented either while the fetus is still in the uterus or directly after birth.

In addition to the prenatal techniques, newborn screenings have provided well over 2,000 newborns the opportunity for typical development. These screenings can prevent phenylketonuria (PKU), congenital hypothyroidism, Rh disease, and other abnormalities. PKU occurs in approximately 1 of every 14,000 births in the United States. PKU is a genetic disorder that causes difficulty for the body in breaking down the common food chemical, phyenylala-nine. When phyenylalanine, an amino acid, builds up it can cause serious health and learning problems. Other preventive measures used to prevent mental retardation include reducing the presence of lead in the environment, using helmets and child safety seats, and educating people about the importance of using safety equipment. In addition, ensuring proper prenatal care for all pregnant women and seeking genetic counseling if there is history of birth defects will help prevent MR.

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