Health Alert! Get To Know The Common Birth Defects, Symptoms, And Treatments

Expecting a baby is joyous and parents can’t just wait to meet the little ones after nine months of pregnancy. Apart from thinking about the baby’s nursery color, your diet, fitness regime during pregnancy, praying for an easy labor, every parent would hope, want, and pray for a healthy baby.

In reality, things don’t always go according to plan. Birth defects in babies are certainly worrisome but quite common. One in 33 babies in the United States is born with serious birth defects. With early detection, intervention, and medicines, babies affected by birth conditions can lead a healthy and normal life. Some of the most common birth defects in babies are listed out below.


Common Birth Defects

1. Congenital Heart Defects

Most of the heart defects in the babies can be detected during pregnancy through ultrasound. But the most frightening part of the truth is that the congenital heart problem is the most common birth defect in babies. The American Heart Association reports eight out of every 1,000 babies are born with some heart disorder. The defects can range from issues with the heart rhythm or the organ structure, genetic abnormalities. Fortunately, most cases are minor and not show any visible symptoms, others are worrisome. The doctor usually detects during a routine checkup. When an abnormal heart rhythm called a murmur is detected, further tests usually proceed to determine the seriousness.

Serious heart defects are outwardly detectable. With symptoms like rapid heartbeat, breathing difficulties, gray or bluish lips, swelling, and feeding trouble. If left untreated, it might lead to congenital heart failure.


2. Cleft Lip Or Palate

Although the defect might look alarming, it can be corrected after birth. A cleft lip or a cleft palate is a common birth defect where the root of the mouth does not close properly. This defect can cause trouble while eating or talking. The exact cause of the defect is hard to detect but it is likely that women who smoke, use certain epilepsy medications, have diabetes to have babies born with this condition.

Symptoms of this defect can be mild or severe – involving the lip, floor of the nostril, and the dental arch. Usually, a speech pathologist helps the affected baby with the language development. Surgical repair for cleft lip should be done by 3 months of age. For cleft palate, a surgery will restore the partition between the nose and the mouth at a later stage – between 6-12 months of age. The treatment corrected with surgery and less noticeable scars, the deformity can be cured.


3. Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is another common birth defect which involves the baby’s spine development in the first trimester. It may lead to long-lasting problems in the legs – leg paralysis, bladder and bowel-control problems. Sometimes, the malformation of the neural tube that becomes the framework of the spine does not close completely. The neural-tube defects can be detected through tests like the alpha-fetoprotein test, through ultrasound, and amniocentesis. Taking proper care in the first trimester is important. While some women may opt for fetal surgery that corrects the defect, others choose to wait until birth. In severe cases, the baby will be operated within 48 hours of birth.

4. Clubfoot

About 1 in 1000 babies are affected with clubfoot. As a parent, this condition looks absolutely heart-wrenching and worrying. When your little one’s feet are misshaped or pointed at wrong direction, it is called clubfoot. Usually, the tendons that connect the muscle and the bone cause the foot to point up or down. As the treatment takes a long time, it begins in the early months after birth. Variety of stretching, casting, and even surgery is used to treat the defect. If it is left untreated, the trouble will start once the baby starts to walk. It can affect the self-esteem of the baby and long-term problems like abnormal gaits and arthritis may develop. Clubfoot can be mild or severe. It can affect one or both feet. Risk factors of the defect include family history, infections, and recreational drug use during pregnancy.


5. Undeveloped Or Missing Limbs

Unfortunately, some babies end up being born with underdeveloped or missing limbs. It is believed that maternal exposure to chemicals or viruses during pregnancy might affect the growing baby. Missing of upper limbs is quite common and the defect affects about 1500 babies in the United States each year. While some babies need surgeries, others thrive with occupational therapies or prosthetics. Parents need to give emotional support and encourage to boost the confidence.

6. Down Syndrome

This is a genetic abnormality which can happen to anybody. When the baby gets an extra copy of chromosome 21 in a certain part of the genetic code, Down syndrome is the result. The incidence of this syndrome increases with mother’s age. With certain genetic tests, the condition can be detected. Although children affected with this syndrome can live a healthy and happy life, it is devastating for the parents. A baby with Down syndrome can have slanted eyes, small mouth, nose with a flattened nasal bridge, small ears that fold over at the top, and small hands with short fingers. It can cause certain intellectual disabilities and medical conditions that might include heart defect. There is no cure for this syndrome.


7. Fragile X Syndrome

The most common genetic cause of autism is Fragile X syndrome. When the baby’s body cannot produce enough of a protein that is used to help develop the brain. About 1 in every 4,000 boys and 1 in 8,000 girls in the United States are born with Fragile X. The range of retardation varies from mild to severe. Children with this syndrome may appear to be physically normal at birth. Surprisingly, only one in three show outward signs of the defect which includes intellectual impairment. The physical symptoms of this syndrome include an elongated face, poor muscle tone, large ears, flat feet, overcrowded teeth, cleft palate, and autistic-like tendencies. They may also suffer seizures. Treatment for this syndrome should start early to help maximize the child’s development. The family history of autism or developmental delays is at high risk of passing fragile X syndrome to the baby.

8. Sickle-Cell Disease

Around 1 in 625 births are affected by Sickle-cell disease. This mostly affects the African-American community. All newborns need to give a blood test to detect the disorder. Symptoms of the disease can cause debilitating bouts of pain and damage to vital organs. It can even be fatal. This disease affects the hemoglobin (a protein inside the red blood cells) and distorts the cells. Instead of normal, round shape, they look like sickles – hence the name. The distorted cells can get trapped in and destroyed by the liver and spleen, which could result in anemia. Shortness of breath, tiredness, pale-looking child, severe bacterial infections are the complications. Episodes of pain – crises – could occur when the cells get stuck and block the blood vessels which eventually block the oxygen supply to many parts of the body. Immunization – vaccines like pneumonia and flu shots – and daily preventative penicillin treatment helps.


9. Cerebral Palsy

This defect in babies can occur during pregnancy, at birth, or shortly afterward. It affects about 500,000 children in the United States. Issues involve muscle tone, coordination, and motor skills. This disorder is the result of maternal health issues, genetics, infections, and other issues during the brain development in the baby. Sometimes, it can also happen during delivery. The severity of the defect varies and there are various types of CP. A cerebral palsy kid would have problems with walking, eating, breathing, talking and even bladder control. It can be hard to diagnose, but therapy can improve mobility and self-sufficiency.

You can’t really beat genetics, but fortunately, babies born with birth defects have a chance to get cured with advanced medical interventions. You have to give attention and focus on your baby’s defects to help develop his full potential.


There are some precautions to take during pregnancy. To ensure giving birth to a healthy baby, staying away from smoking or drinking alcohol is a must.