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title pic Living with a Limb Defect

Posted by Fiona Cole on April 25, 2011

Living With a Limb Defect

A major study in 2007 found that antidepressant medication, when taken during pregnancy, may elevate the risk of a birth defect known as a congenital limb defect. A link was found between antidepressants and limb-reduction defects in developing fetuses. A limb defect means that part of — or the whole of — one of the baby’s lower or upper limbs does not form properly when the baby is growing in the uterus.

The most common limb defects can vary in appearance. Fingers or toes may fail to separate, or the entire arm or leg may be missing. Other possible variations of limb defects are overgrowth, where a limb is larger than normal, or undergrowth, where a limb is smaller than the other limbs. Sometimes duplication occurs, for example the occurrence of extra fingers or toes.

Limb defects are usually diagnosed at birth. Treatment for a limb defect will be prescribed by your child’s doctor and will depend on a number of factors, including the type and severity of the defect, as well as your child’s age and overall health. Your personal preference and your child’s tolerance for specific therapies and procedures will also be taken into account.

The goal of treatment regimes for a congenital limb defect is to provide the child with a properly functioning limb. Treatment approaches also aim to improve the appearance of the limb, which in turn assists the child with social and emotional development. Treatments can include prosthetics, braces, splints, surgery or physical therapy. Occupational therapy is also considered in order to promote the development of every day coping skills and to encourage independence and self-care.

As with any birth defect, learning how to adapt to the situation — for both child and parents — is a key part of moving forward and discovering the best possible quality of life available. Support groups involving others who are in a similar situation can be very empowering. Advances in artificial limb technology have also greatly raised the bar for those living with a limb defect. There are many programs and organizations which offer exciting outdoor activities, such as adaptive rock-climbing, which bring families together and provide a great outlet for any young person living with this challenging condition.

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