Birth defects, also called congenital disorders, are health problems that a child is born with. They represent a wide range of health conditions, ranging from minor to life-threatening. Babies born with birth defects are at a greater risk for disabilities or illnesses later in life.
Types of Birth Defects
Though there are literally thousands of types of birth defects, some of the most common ones include spina bifida, Down syndrome, cleft palate and heart defects. Some birth defects are easy to see on a newborn baby, but others, such as heart, lung or hearing problems, are not outwardly visible. These birth defects require special testing to diagnose and treat. Similarly, some birth defects, such as cleft palate, can be treated and corrected, while others are lifelong disabilities.
Causes and Prevention
In many cases, birth defects are genetic disorders that are passed down from parents to a child. There is little that can be done to prevent this. There are, however, a number of other steps a mother can take before and during pregnancy to prevent birth defects.
These steps include abstaining from using alcohol, tobacco or drugs during pregnancy. It’s also important to speak with a health-care provider about what prescription medications, herbs, supplements and foods should and should not be taken. In addition, studies have shown that taking 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, starting even before pregnancy, is helpful in reducing risk. And finally, strive to get health problems like diabetes or obesity under control before becoming pregnant as they can also increase risk.
In many cases, birth defects can be detected via testing before birth. Though this can be a stressful decision, it can help parents plan for caring for a child with a birth defect. Also, the treatment or preparation to treat the birth defect may be able to begin even before birth.
SOURCES: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; March of Dimes
New survey finds too few are taking folic acid before pregnancy
Many of these children can also suffer from illnesses such as autism and respiratory conditions, study says
But experimental treatment only tested in monkeys so far, researchers say
Employer-based insurance forked over the money for special care, treatment of birth defects, study says
Such screens are critical to early intervention efforts, CDC officials say
But smaller future outbreaks are likely, scientists warn
In 'first-of-its kind' procedure, scientists converted to normal a mutant gene involved in heart threat
A mouse study shows the vaccines protected unborn baby mice from the virus
But researchers say absolute risk is low
Report from U.S. territories finds 120 newborns suffered range of devastating developmental problems
It finds newborns aren't more likely to be irritable, hard to feed or sleepless
Teens whose mothers smoked may have issues with thinking skills, study shows
Work with monkeys indicates birth defects could extend beyond brain abnormalities
Virus strains came from the Caribbean and Latin America, researchers say
U.S. study found only 1 of 185 who traveled to active areas tested positive, and baby wasn't infected
A mild outbreak might approach $200 million, while more severe spread could involve billions, study finds
Twins study found DNA most at play for nose's tip, area around lips, cheekbones