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Birth Defects Overview
Birth defects are physical or mental problems that take place while the baby is developing inside the mother’s womb. The first three months of pregnancy are the most crucial part as defects usually occur at these periods. In a year, there are more or less 7.9 million newborn babies with birth defects. In 50% of these cases, the causes could not be exactly identified, but doctors believe that genetic and environmental factors play important roles in the development of these congenital anomalies. Birth defects are one of the leading causes of mortality among newborns.
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Types of Birth Defects
Here are some of the commonly seen birth defects types in newborns.
Congenital Heart Diseass
Congenital heart disease or CHD is the most common birth defect, affecting 1 in every 125 live births. It is a heart anomaly that develops on the first trimester of pregnancy. However, not all CHD are detected at birth. The diseases included in the CHD are ventricular septal defects (VSD), Tetralogy of Fallot, patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), anomalies of the heart valve, hypoplastic left heart syndrome and transposition of the great arteries.
The cause of CHD is unknown. However, there are factors that increase the risk of giving birth to a child with CHD. The risk factors include genetic abnormalities, alcohol and medicine abuse during pregnancy and maternal viral infection such as rubella.
Mouth and Facial Defects
Examples of mouth and facial defects are cleft palata and cleft lip. These conditions are the second most commonly seen birth defects in newborns. Cleft lip happens when the tissues in the nose and upper jaw do not join during the fetal development. These defects do not usually cause serious health problems, but it can result in feeding difficulties.
Environmental and genetic factors play an important role in the development of the defects. The risk of having children with cleft lip and cleft palate increases if one of the parents was born with it and if the mother abused drug or alcohol during pregnancy.
One example of genetic defects in children is Down syndrome. Down syndrome is a defect caused by error in chromosomal development, where instead of having 46 chromosomes, the child is born with an extra chromosome 21. Down syndrome often manifests with physical and mental defects. Distinct features of children with Down syndrome are flat face and short neck. The risk for a child to have Down syndrome increases with maternal age and exposure to chemicals and infections.
Eye Defects and Other Sensory Problems
Another type of birth defects that occur in children are eye defects. Examples are cataracts and blindness. Some children also manifest with various hearing problems.