The tragedy of the arrival of a child with an unexpected birth defect is indescribable. Fortunately, prenatal (during pregnancy) techniques using blood tests and ultrasound now make this unexpected surprise less frequent. However, the diagnostic abilities of modern science have simply shifted the dilemma to an earlier stage, and the problem still has to be faced.

Defects that are life-threatening may lead to a discussion on terminating the pregnancy or create a discussion on the difficulties (or blessings) of all that will arise.

There is little that complementary or alternative medicine can do to alter the physical structure of a child but support can be given to the shocked psyches of parents, especially mothers. Holistic beliefs would hold that defects that were forged at conception would have been created by defective sperm or eggs, and avoidance of these is encouraged by being in good health before fertilization occurs. Defects formed after fertilization are due to the condition within the womb throughout the pregnancy and are predominantly caused by what is taken in by the mother, specifically ingested toxins, which include smoking, alcohol, drugs (both prescribed and recreational), insecticides, pesticides and household cleaning chemicals. Orthodox medicine, on the other hand, can now perform intricate operations whilst the foetus is developing within the uterus, and structural anomalies may be correctable.

Biochemical defects, neurological deficits and problems associated with that part of the pregnancy or delivery after ultrasound has stopped being used, are unlikely to be detected until the infant is born.

However, the orthodox world often describes the symptoms and explains to the parent the percentage chance of progression to a variety of symptoms.

For example, the rare condition known as Angelman’s syndrome (caused by a chromosomal defect) will cause epilepsy in 80 per cent of children around the age of two years. Hyperactivity is another major symptom. The orthodox world offers no suggestions but a more holistic view may surmise or hypothesize that as the child grows and receives more sensory input, the nervous system may become overloaded. If the child has a tendency to hyperactivity in any case, this may be the cause of epilepsy. Presumably 20 per cent of children who do not have fits have some neurochemical mechanism that suppresses this hyperactivity. No studies can prove this suggestion but perhaps homeopathy, herbal medicine and supplemental medicine to encourage the production of serotonin, dopamine and other brain-calming chemicals may benefit the child and keep him or her as one of the one in five who do not have fits.

The Eastern philosophies, particularly the Hindu religion, consider the concept of karma. It may be necessary for an individual to suffer neurological or structural handicaps in order to learn lessons that bring them closer to their God. In the same way that a spontaneous miscarriage may be a blessing conferred by a spirit who needed only a short incarnation, a handicapped child may teach parents many emotional lessons from dealing with shock, disappointment, anger and frustration to a deeper level of understanding, responsibility and most surprisingly, joy. So often, the more severe the handicap, the more the individual is surprisingly free of negative emotions such as anger, hatred, guilt. It may take many lifetimes to achieve the state of joy and innocence that the mentally handicapped can take as a norm.

Always undergo the safe investigations of pregnancy. Ultrasound and blood tests are essential because forewarned is forearmed.

Consult a professional with experience in dealing with parents of congenially compromised children. There is so much support, love and expertise out there that this battle need not be fought alone.

Consult with an experienced complementary medical practitioner to ensure that nutrition during pregnancy and the nutrition of the infant are at an optimum, because many conditions are exacerbated by deficiency or toxicity.

Homeopathic remedies both for the parents and the child can have a profound effect on both the psychology and the physical problems.

Spend time with a spiritual or religious teacher and remember to glean the most from the difficulties that are associated with a child with birth defects. Lessons come in many guises.

Check for pesticides and other toxins in the bloodstream of both parents to determine whether this may have been the cause of a defect that might affect future pregnancies.