Can you reduce the risk of having a baby with clubfoot?

July 16, 2019

Clubfoot is a birth defect of the foot. It’s when a baby’s foot turns inward so that the bottom of the foot faces sideways or even up. This happens because the tissues that connect muscles to bone (called tendons) in your baby’s leg and foot are shorter than normal.

While about 1 in 1,000 babies is born with clubfoot in the United States each year, there are steps you can take before and during pregnancy to help reduce your baby’s chances of having clubfoot.

What causes clubfoot?

We’re not sure what causes clubfoot, but these risk factors may make your baby more likely to have it than other babies:

  • Your baby is a boy. Boys are twice as likely as girls to have clubfoot.
  • You have a family history of clubfoot. You may be more likely to have a baby with clubfoot if you or your partner has clubfoot, or if you already have a child with clubfoot.
  • You smoke (or are exposed to secondhand smoke), drink alcohol or use street drugs during pregnancy. If you smoke during pregnancy, your baby’s chances of having clubfoot may be twice that of babies born to women who don’t smoke. Secondhand smoke is smoke you breathe in from someone else’s cigarette, cigar or pipe.
  • You have oligohydramnios during pregnancy. This is when you have too little amniotic fluid. This is the fluid that surrounds your baby in the womb.
  • Your baby has another birth defect, like spina bifida or cerebral palsy, or a genetic condition like Trisomy 18.
  • You have Zika infection during pregnancy. Zika is a virus that’s associated with congenital Zika syndrome (also called CZS). CZS includes birth defects (like clubfoot) and other health and development problems.
How can you prevent clubfoot in your baby?

Because we’re not sure what causes clubfoot, it may not be possible to prevent all cases. But doing these things may help reduce your baby’s risk of having the condition.

Before you get pregnant:

  • Get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy to help make sure you’re healthy when you get pregnant.
  • Talk to a genetic counselor to help you understand the chances of having a baby with clubfoot. A genetic counselor is a person who is trained to help you understand about genes, birth defects and other medical conditions that run in families, and how they can affect your health and your baby’s health.
  • Get checked for infections, like Zika. Early testing and treatment can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

While you’re pregnant:

  • Go to all of your prenatal care checkups. Prenatal care is medical care you get during pregnancy. Getting regular prenatal care can help you have a healthy pregnancy. It’s important to go to every checkup, even if you’re feeling fine.
  • Protect yourself from Zika. There’s no vaccine to help prevent the Zika virus. If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant don’t travel to Zika-affected areas unless you absolutely have to. Prevent mosquito bites. Don’t have sex with a partner who may be infected with Zika or who’s recently traveled to a Zika-affected area. If you work in a hospital, doctor’s office, lab or other health settings, follow workplace safety rules to avoid contact with infected body fluids or lab samples.
  • If you think you may have been exposed to Zika during pregnancy, ask your health care provider about testing for it.
  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use street drugs. If you need help quitting, tell your provider. Be sure to avoid secondhand smoke, too.