If your baby is born with a birth defect or other health condition, he may need special care at birth and later in life. You may be worried and have lots of questions. It’s OK to feel this way. Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. Birth defects can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops or how the body works And learn what treatments your baby may need if he has one of these conditions.
Birth defect is a problem that occurs when a baby is developing in utero (in the womb). Approximately 1 out of every 33 babies in the United States is born with a birth defect. Birth defects can be minor or severe. They may affect appearance, organ function, and physical and mental development. Most birth defects are present within the first three months of pregnancy, when the organs are still forming. Some birth defects are harmless. Others require long-term medical treatment. Severe birth defects are the leading cause of infant death in the United States, accounting for 20 percent of deaths.
What causes birth defects ?
Birth defects can be a result of:
• genetics,lifestyle choices and behaviors,exposure to certain medications and chemicals,infections during pregnancy,a combination of these factors However, the exact causes of certain birth defects are often unknown.
Genetics:The mother or father may pass on genetic abnormalities to their baby. Genetic abnormalities occur when a gene becomes flawed due to a mutation, or change. In some cases, a gene or part of a gene might be missing. These defects happen at conception and often can’t be prevented. A particular defect may be present throughout the family history of one or both parents.
Nongenetic Causes: The causes of some birth defects can be difficult or impossible to identify. However, certain behaviors greatly increase the risk of birth defects. These include smoking, using illegal drugs, and drinking alcohol while pregnant. Other factors, such as exposure to toxic chemicals or viruses, also increase risk.
Common Birth Defects: Birth defects are typically classified as structural or functional and developmental. Structural defects are when a specific body part is missing or malformed. The most common structural defects are:
• heart defects,cleft lip or palate, when there’s an opening or split in the lip or roof of the mouth,spina bifida, when the spinal cord doesn’t develop properly,clubfoot, when the foot points inward instead of forward Functional or developmental birth defects cause a body part or system not to work properly. These often cause disabilities of intelligence or development. Functional or developmental birth defects include metabolic defects, sensory problems, and nervous system problems. Metabolic defects cause problems with the baby’s body chemistry. The most common types of functional or developmental birth defects include:
• Down syndrome, which causes delay in physical and mental development,sickle cell disease, which occurs when the red blood cells become misshapen,cystic fibrosis, which damages the lungs and digestive system Some children face physical problems associated with specific birth defects. However, many children show no visible abnormalities. Defects can sometimes go undetected for months or even years after the child is born. .
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How are birth defects treated?
Treatment options vary depending on the condition and level of severity. Some birth defects can be corrected before birth or shortly after. Other defects, however, may affect a child for the rest of their life. Mild defects can be stressful, but they don’t typically affect overall quality of life. Severe birth defects, such as cerebral palsy or spina bifida, can cause long-term disability or even death. Speak with your doctor about the appropriate treatment for your child’s condition.
Medications: Medications may be used to treat some birth defects or to lower the risk of complications from certain defects. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to the mother to help correct an abnormality before birth.
Surgeries: Surgery can fix certain defects or ease harmful symptoms. Some people with physical birth defects, such as cleft lip, may undergo plastic surgery for either health or cosmetic benefits. Many babies with heart defects will need surgery, as well.
Home care: Parents may be instructed to follow specific instructions for feeding, bathing, and monitoring an infant with a birth defect.