What are birth defects?
Birth defects usually occur when the baby is growing in the womb and are visible, chemical, and internal abnormalities that occur in an infant’s body.
A birth defect may directly result from various inherited conditions or genetic abnormalities. Other than these, there are several known reasons, such as drug exposure and infections that result in birth.
According to reports, every four and a half minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect in the U.S. Birth defects mainly occur in the early months of pregnancy, while some develop during delivery as well.
Some birth defects are unpreventable because they’re genetic, but there are others that are a direct result of medical negligence.
Common causes of birth defects:
In addition to medical malpractice, factors such as drug or alcohol exposure during pregnancy and infections can also lead to birth defects.
For instance, cerebral palsy is considered a type of birth defect that occurs due to negligence of the doctors and nurses present at the time of, before, and after the delivery.
Cerebral palsy affects an infant’s nervous system and brain, limiting their ability to control their movement. Families with cases of cerebral palsy due to negligence can file a cerebral palsy lawsuit to know what went wrong, what could have been done to prevent it, and what compensation they can receive for their child.
Types of birth defects:
1. Spina bifida:
The term spina bifida originates from Latin, which means open or split spine. In this type of birth defect, the baby’s spine or backbone is not formed normally. The defect typically occurs at the end of the first month of pregnancy, where the result of the abnormal spine formation causes damage to the nerves and the spinal cord.
This defect may sometimes present itself when it causes an opening in the back. At other times, it can remain hidden under the skin as the spinal cord and the surrounding coverings push through the opening.
Folic acid pregnancy plays a vital role in the baby’s cell development during growth and tissue formation. Research shows lack of folic acid is linked to Spina bifida.
On the other hand, some studies also suggest that genes may play a role in the development of this birth defect.
2. Down syndrome:
Infants with Down syndrome are examples of birth defects caused by chromosomes and genes. In this condition, the child is born with an extra chromosome which causes delays in mental and physical development.
Unfortunately, Down’s syndrome cannot be prevented, but it can be managed depending upon the child’s condition.
The extra genetic material that the baby inherits causes development delays and produces physical features such as an upward slant to the eyes, flat facial profile, etc., that the kids with the syndrome tend to share.
The condition may typically go unnoticed by parents if they don’t take prenatal tests to diagnose the condition. Knowing beforehand that your baby has this condition can help parents make more informed decisions.
One of the more common birth defects, Clubfoot, causes the child’s foot to point inward instead of outward like it usually does. Since the condition is identified after birth, it can go unnoticed.
The defect commonly affects only one foot, but some babies are born with the defect in both feet. Clubfoot affects the bones and muscles in the feet as the twisting causes the toes to turn in and point towards the opposite leg.
Though the cause for Clubfoot isn’t known, it isn’t painful or a source of problems for the child’s mobility. However, if the birth defect isn’t found around the 20th week of pregnancy during an ultrasound, it is diagnosed after birth.
4. Congenital heart disease:
Congenital heart diseases are caused by various factors, including mistakes during fetal development or genetic abnormalities. Sometimes, this defect has no visible symptoms and can go unnoticed.
The symptoms typically include swelling in the lungs, eyes, pale grey skin, difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat, etc. The defect is apparent only when the doctor detects an abnormal heart sound (murmur) in the baby.
Further testing usually confirms the diagnosis, and the doctor offers treatment options based on the severity of the defect. Most birth defects of this kind are treated through mechanical aid (pacemaker), surgery, or drugs.
5. Cleft lip/clef foot:
A Cleft palate is a birth defect if the roof of the mouth doesn’t close properly and occurs in the early development stage of the baby. On the other hand, a cleft lip refers to an opening or a split in the lip.
Both of these defects are called orofacial defects and occur more often among Asians while affecting about 1 in 700 Caucasian babies.
The cleft in babies can range from mild to severe, where it can represent a notch on the upper lip or involve the floor of the nostril, the dental arch, and the lip.
The symptoms may include effects on language development and middle-ear infections, common in infants with this defect. Treatment options include surgery to repair both cleft palate and lip by three months.
According to data, between 2-3% of infants in the U.S suffer from one or more defects at birth. Many factors can become a cause of birth defects, including genetic and environmental.
Some of these defects go unnoticed until the baby is born, making it difficult for parents to deal with the situation. Proper diagnosis and testing can help identify some problems in the womb. It can help parents create a better life for their babies.