Approximately 300 newborns die within a month of birth annually because of congenital anomalies, the most common of which include neural tube defects, Down syndrome, and heart anomalies. Additionally, one in 33 of these newborns is afflicted with a birth defect.
Congenital anomalies or birth defects are thought to be caused by genetic, environmental, nutritional, or infectious factors, but these are all unclear. Almost every case that has been presented has not suggested an exact cause. These devastating physical inconsistencies in newborns are significantly associated with long-term disability, which can ultimately affect individuals, families and the society in general.
Most of these congenital anomalies are not severe and may be fixed through cosmetics or a minor surgical procedure. However, some of these conditions may come with life-threatening complications, and parents may not be able to hold their babies that long. Down syndrome and neural tube defects are commonly seen worldwide yet a lot of parents don’t accept it when it happens to their baby.
Whether it is a minor or major kind of anomaly, parents are equally terrified and frustrated. This is an occurrence that no parent would wish on another towards his baby but unfortunately, it could happen to yours.
8 Most Common Birth Defects
Below is a list of the 8 most common congenital defects that parents should be aware of.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
There has been much debate about whether children acquired the disorder during the mother’s pregnancy or after the baby is born. However, what is undeniable is that autism affects a whopping one 1 of 68 births.
The cause of ASD is still unknown, and children with autism are classified into different categories that describe their level of motor, social and communication skills. They may present with normal physical function with below average intellect or may be physically challenged but with excellent intellectual function.
- Cerebral Palsy
CP is a progressive disorder that affects a child’s muscle tone, motor skills, and coordination. Caused by brain damage before or during birth, cerebral palsy is among the most prevalent congenital diseases in the world, with over 500,000 known cases in the United States alone. It has no cure and depending on its level of severity, it may affect the child’s mobility, eating, and other activities of daily living. Parents have sought therapy and found some improvement and decrease in the speed of progression.
- Down Syndrome
In a population of mothers 40 years old and above, 1 in 100 children is born with Down syndrome. It is believed to be a result of an extra chromosome that the baby acquires while it is in the womb. However, the syndrome is a genetic anomaly that can actually happen to anyone. There have also been cases seen in mothers who are in their 20s.
Down syndrome can be identified through ultrasound and specific genetic tests. Babies born with it have a distinct feature and develop some other medical conditions, such as heart disease. They are also mentally challenged. Despite these, most children who have the support of family and their necessary medications and therapies get to live happy and healthy lives.
- Spina Bifida
This is another common congenital abnormality that involves the babies’ spinal cord. In this case, during its development, the spine is not able to close appropriately and the nerves at the spinal base create a prominence, which appears to be a swelling bulge on the lower back (rarely, in middle back and neck). This is critical in children with severe cases as it causes them to be paralyzed and become dependent all their lives. Spina bifida is only one of the several neural tube defects that newborns may be afflicted with during pregnancy.
Some mothers undergo fetal surgery to fix the anomaly before birth, but most of them prefer to do the procedure after birth. There have been new discoveries that attempt to help babies cope and live with spina bifida as comfortably as possible.
PKU is a congenital disease that is metabolic of origin. In this case, the baby is unable to break down amino acids in food. PKU is not very common, but it has been included here to emphasize the importance of having your newborns tested for this. This is because if the condition is not detected and treated early with medicine and a specific diet, phenylketonuria may ultimately result in heart problems, seizures, and serious mental disabilities.
It is essential for babies that have phenylketonuria to strictly follow their customized diet, including avoidance of milk, eggs, ice cream, nuts, beans, and other protein-rich food.
- Cleft Palate
Cleft lip or palate is a very common congenital defect that is characterized by a slit or opening at the roof of the mouth, which doesn’t completely close. The United States alone has reported nearly 2,700 cases every year, and in over 4,000 of these cases, their top lips are not entirely formed.
The cause of this condition is still unknown, but mothers who are diabetic, smokers, and are taking meds for epilepsy have the most likelihood of having babies born with a cleft palate.
Children who have this congenital birth defect have difficulty eating and may lack speech and communication skills. Surgery has proven to be very helpful in fixing this problem, and have successfully alleviated the issues posed by this condition, despite the scars from the procedure.
A common deformity of the lower limbs, clubfoot occurs in 1 out of 1,000 births. The baby presents with inverted and pointed feet (or foot), which is a result of shortened muscles and bones. Malformations can develop as the baby grows, and he will have difficulty walking and may present with abnormal gait patterns growing up.
Surgery and orthoses have had successful results in treating clubfoot, but as this takes time, it is recommended that surgery and therapy should be done when the baby is less than a month old. Babies with this condition can highly benefit from different stretching techniques and modalities in physical therapy.
- Sickle Cell Disease
This is one of the common blood disorders seen in children where the red blood cells are not normally shaped. Instead of being round, they are shaped as crescent or ‘sickles.’ These abnormally shaped cells stick together and block the small vessels, which prevent blood from circulating and supplying the appropriate amount of oxygen to the body. In the end, this results in anemia, pain and organ damage.
Sickle cell disease can be prevented by proper immunizations to stop bacterial infections and other untoward illnesses from occurring in conjunction with it. It is most commonly seen in African American babies, although it can also be present among Hispanic, Asian, and Italian descent babies.
Looking On The Brighter Side
Congenital anomalies range in types and severity, and in a lot of cases, you can’t really deny the genetic impact. However, just because genetics is the culprit doesn’t mean it can’t be caused by other things that can be avoided. Alcohol and cigarette smoking are two predominant vices that cause many conditions, including these anomalies that parents can pass to their unborn child. Veering from these may prevent fetal alcohol syndrome and save your child from a devastating deformity. It’s really better to be safe than sorry.
Luckily, for these babies with birth abnormalities, there have been current discoveries from experts that can help them improve and live better lives. Parents need to learn about them, support their children in any way they can and help them progress to their fullest potential possible.
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