Birth defects-here is what you need to know.

While we are still marking the pregnancy and infant loss month, I thought why not delve deeper into the menace that is birth defects? This condition is also known as congenital malformation. Globally, statistics show that birth defects are on an upward spiral. This is according to a trend monitored by the WHO over the last five years. If these anomalies are left untreated they could be fatal. However, with proper management and therapy some are responsive to treatment and especially so if diagnosed early. They vary from subtle to severe. These abnormalities not only affect the individuals but also the care-givers and the society at large. Congenital diseases often take a huge toll on the affected individuals both financially and emotionally.


WHO defines birth defects as structural or functional anomalies that show at birth. These are any externally visible or internal abnormalities that newborns are born having. They present themselves in many forms and shapes. Mostly, these birth defects occur during the first trimester when the organs are still forming. They may either be diagnosed at birth, in childhood or way later in life.

What are some of the types of birth defects

Majorly the causes of these birth defects are classified into two broad categories; Genetic and environmental. Some birth defects disrupt normal structure and functioning of the body.

Here are some types of birth defects;

•Abnormal limbs such as club foot-when the feet point inwards

•Cleft lip and palate-appears as an opening in on the lip or palate of the mouth.

Congenital heart defects

Hydrocephalus-a condition whereby excess fluid accumulates in the brain of a child causing brain damage.

Down syndrome-presents itself in delay of development of a child.

What are some of the risk factors

•Genetics-either parent can pass genetic abnormalities to their child.

•Smoking and alcoholism.

•Pre-existing conditions.

•Being advanced in age for a mother.

•Infections such as Sexually Transmitted Infections.

•Chromosomal problems.

•Some medication like tretinoin because of some of its components can cause birth defects. It’s therefore crucial to consult with a physician as opposed to buying drugs off the counter.

•Stress-going through life-changing events during pregnancy can affect the development of the baby.

How can you prevent birth defects?

While it is not entirely up to a parent to bring forth a healthy newborn, experts suggest some of these measures to minimize risk.

Healthy diet-folic acid is one of the best supplements when it comes to healthy pregnancy. Well balanced diet is also vital for healthy development of the unborn.

Quit smoking, alcohol and illegal drugs.

Addressing pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

Pre-natal, neonatal and postnatal visits-high resolution ultra-sound may detect any anomalies in child development. In addition treatment options are available for fetus for example in the case of irregular heartbeat. This is administered through the mother.

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