How do birth defects happen

Birth defects are conditions that occur during the developing stage of a fetus. According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevent, about 1 out of every 33 babies in the US are born with a birth defect. 

A birth defect may be minor or severe. And it could affect a baby’s appearance, the functioning of the organ, physical, and sometimes mental development. 

Most times, congenital disabilities occur during the first three months of pregnancy. That’s the period when the baby’s organs are still forming. 

Don’t get it wrong. Not all congenital disabilities are dangerous. Some are harmless and won’t cause any medical complications for your baby. But others require medical treatment. 

Again, about 20% of infant death in the US is due to severe birth defects.

 

Read Also: Important Things You Should Know About Thyroids 


What are the Causes of Birth Defects 

Unfortunately, most times, doctors aren’t able to tell the exact cause of a birth defect in a baby. But when they have an idea of the cause, it’s usually due to any of the following factors; 

#1. Environmental Causes 

A birth defect is due to environmental factors when the fetus was exposed to chemicals or viruses. Similarly, if a pregnant woman has conditions like toxoplasmosis, rubella, and chickenpox, the fetus is vulnerable to a birth defect unless the mother is vaccinated. 

#2. Genetic Factors 

Genetic factors can also cause birth defects in babies. During conception, a fetus inherits one of each parent’s chromosomes. However, when an error occurs during this process, the baby will have a birth defect. And the baby will be born with too many or too few chromosomes.

#3. Lifestyle Choice and Behavior  

Sometimes, the lifestyle choice and behavior of a pregnant woman can expose the fetus to a birth defect. For instance, if the mother takes too much alcohol, it will affect the baby in the womb and cause fetal alcohol syndrome. 

Are There Any Risk Factors for Birth Defects?

Generally, every woman is vulnerable to giving birth to a child with defects. But the risk increases under the following conditions; 

 

  • Family history and other genetic disorder 
  • Taking drugs, alcohol, and smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of your fetus having a birth defect.
  • Maternal age of 35 years and above 
  • Poor prenatal care 
  • Untreated viral and bacterial infections 

What are the common Birth Defects?

Generally, a birth defect could be structural, functional, or developmental. 

A birth defect is structural if the baby is born without a specific body part or the body part is not well-formed. Here are examples of structural birth defects; 

  • Heart defects 
  • Cleft lip or palate (it’s a type of birth defect that occurs when there’s an opening or split in the mouth roof).
  • Spina Bifida (It’s a type of birth defect due to poor development of the spinal cord).
  • Clubfoot – a kind of birth defect when the baby’s foot points inward instead of outward.

The functional or developmental birth defect affects the proper functioning of the body system. These defects include metabolic defects, sensory problems, and improper functioning of the nervous system. 

Here are some examples of functional or developmental birth defects; 

  • Down syndrome – a defect that causes delays in a baby’s physical and mental development. 
  • Sickle cell disease – a defect that’s trigged by the malformed of the red blood
  • Cystic fibrosis – a defect that could damage the lungs and digestive system. 

How to Prevent a Birth Defect

Unfortunately, you can’t prevent certain birth defects. You can only try to make your baby less prone to these defects during its developmental stage in the womb. 

For instance, if you intend to have a baby, start taking enough folic acids even before conception. And when you get pregnant, take them throughout your pregnancy.  

According to experts, taking folic acids before and after pregnancy prevents defects of the brain and spine. Also, ensure that you take enough prenatal vitamins during pregnancy. 

Here are other ways to prevent birth defects; 

  • Avoid taking alcohol, drugs, and tobacco during and after pregnancy. 
  • Be careful of the medications you take during pregnancy. Some of these medications could cause birth defects. So, if you are pregnant, always check with your doctor before taking any drug. 
  • Take the recommended vaccines throughout pregnancy. Some of these vaccines help to prevent birth defects. 
  • Maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy.
  • Take prenatal appointments seriously. 

 

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