Even with all of the scientific interest and various organizations that are geared to birth defects common birth defects continues to be a huge area of discussion for physicians, parents to be and other interested parties and organizations. There are many common birth defects that newborns are born and many of which have no known cause. Over fifty percent of birth defects have no known cause however, organizations like the March of Dimes continue to raise funds for research and study of the area surrounding fetal development and birth.
Causes of birth defects
There are several causes for common birth defects and there are many unknown causes for birth defects and there are also many people around the world studying the problems of the most common birth defects that occur in unborn babies or newborn babies. The March of Dimes website states that there are 120,000 babies born each year with a birth defect. And about three percent children born in the US have some form of major birth defect. So this is a serious area of concern for any expecting parents. Causes may be environmental, hereditary which are considered to be genetic, and those lumped as other causes.
General categories of birth defect causes
There are three general categories of birth defects some of which contain the more common birth defects. One of the causes is considered to be environmentally related. This is caused by exposure to chemicals or alcohol or street drugs. It may be due to catching German measles known as Rubella or even from catching the flu. The next category is genetic causes. This is when one or more of the genes passed by either one parent or both of the parents are abnormal in some regard. An example of this is in one of the common birth defects known as Down syndrome. The third general category is the combination of both of these or multi-factors or really basically unknown factors.
Some common birth defects
There are over four thousand known birth defects some of them are considered common birth defects and others are far rarer and they range from minor to very serious to life threatening soon after birth. Many of the common birth defects are treatable. Not all of them are preventable. Some of the better known birth defects are being born with a clubfoot. This is actually fairly common and it can be mild to severe. Congenital hypothyroidism is another common defect which is related to the Thyroid gland. Congenital hip dislocation is one of the often seen defects. And then there is cerebral palsy where movement control is impaired which is caused by brain damage.
This is one of the forms of structural and metabolic categories of common birth defects. It is also the leading cause of birth related deaths. Congenital heart defects may be very slight and not known or noticed until the child reaches the age of about four years old. Congenital heart defects may be so severe the baby’s life is threatened. This happens when any part of the heart is abnormal at birth. It originates in the heart in the early weeks of a mother’s pregnancy as the heart is actually forming and growing. It may result in the baby having a heart murmur. Certain types of cognitive heart defects may cause congestive heart failure. There are tests for it which include chest x-rays, electrocardiogram to detect heart rate patterns and Endocardiogram which is a form of ultrasound that takes pictures of the heart.
Cleft lip or cleft palate
Another common defect also called oral-facial clefts. A cleft is a gap in a body structure in this case the lips or roof of the mouth which results in the incomplete closure of the specific structure. It can be a small notch in the lip or may be an opening that goes up to the nose. It can happen on one or both sides. The causes are not understood. It can be corrected by surgery generally when the baby is three months old. It can cause dental problems, feeding problems and speech difficulties.
This is one of the most common birth defects. It is a chromosomal disorder. The severity may vary with Down Syndrome. It is caused by extra genetic material from Chromosome 21. Chromosomes are structures in cells that contain genes. The normal number is 46 and a child with Down syndrome has 47 in over ninety percent of the cases. There may be some intellectual disability and there maybe certain facial features that are affected. It can cause heart problems, heart defects, intestine issues and vision issues like crossed eyes. Most of the problems can be treated. The risk of this birth defect increases with a woman’s age.
This birth defect is one of the ones that taking folic acid may prevent. It affects the lower back and sometimes the spinal cord. It is also very common in the US. There may be no symptoms. It is one of the Neural tube defects. The Neural tube develops into the brain and spinal cord. If not completely closed by birth spinal cord defects can occur. Overweight women and women with uncontrolled diabetes are most at risk.
General birth defects prevention
There is one, unfortunately of the more common birth defects which is preventable called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. There is no cure or treatment but it can be prevented. It is caused by excessive alcohol consumption before, and during pregnancy. It results in slow growth and central nervous system issues. Other forms of prevention are making sure you take folic acid. Don’t drink, smoke or take street drugs. Some prescribed medications may cause birth defects so talk to your physician if you take any prescription drugs or over the counter drugs. Also if you know there is a genetic condition in your families discuss that also with your physician. Common birth defects may be prevented or at least prepared for when a new parent has known about them before the baby is born.