Efforts at the prevention of mental retardation usually take four tacks, based on the different causes of the condition.
- Genetic: Prenatal screening for genetic disorders, along with genetic counseling for those families in which there is a risk for known inherited disorders, may help reduce the risk of a child being born with inherited mental retardation.
- Social: Government nutrition programs can help alleviate malnutrition, which is linked to mental retardation; early intervention in cases of abuse of poverty can also help.
- Toxic: Environmental programs that reduce exposure to lead, mercury and other toxins may help reduce mental retardation, though the benefits may not appear for years. Increased awareness of the dangers of using alcohol and drugs during pregnancy is also vital in preventing mental retardation.
- Infectious: Taking steps to prevent diseases such as congenital rubella syndrome and toxoplasmosis, which can develop by exposure to cat litter during pregnancy, can reduce the risk of mental retardation.