Birth defect is a defect in a baby at birth. Birth defects are congenital; it means they are with the child from birth. However, only some of these defects are visible at birth. Some birth defects are with the child for many years before they are visible.
Some birth defects are more serious than others. Birthmarks are minor birth defects. Some kinds are quite common. Most kinds pose no health risk.
Types of birth defects [change]
- Genetic defects:
- Maternal environment
- Infection of the mother: For example, if a pregnant woman gets rubella, her child can have many birth defects.
- Mother's lifestyle: If the mother took certain things during pregnancy, these can lead to problems with the baby. Common examples of such things are smoking tobacco, or drinking alcohol. Food related: Pregnant women should eat well. If a pregnant woman does not receive enough folic acid with her food, the child can get neural tube defects.
- Drugs that affect development of the embryo: Pregnant women are not allowed to use some drugs. For example, thalidomide should not be used by a pregnant woman, or it can cause many defects in the foetus.
How common birth defects are [change]
About 3 percent of all babies have what is called a major physical anomaly. This is something that either impacts the way certain things look, or how they work.
Birth defects involving the brain are the most common problems. They concern about 10 per 1000 live births, compared to heart problems, at 8 per 1000, kidney problems at 4 per 1000, and limbs at 1 per 1000. All other physical anomalies together occur in 6 per 1000 live births.
Birth defects of the heart have the highest risk of death during childhood. They are the cause of 28% of infant deaths due to birth defects, while chromosomal abnormalities and respiratory abnormalities each account for 15%, and brain malformations about 12%. About 10% of deaths in children are because of a genetic disease. This is more than the number of deaths caused by infectious diseases.
China Birth Deformity Monitoring Centre says that one baby with birth defects is born every 30 seconds in China.
- Kliegman RM, Marcdante KJ, Jenson HB, Behrman RE (2002). Nelson's Essentials of Pediatrics (fifth edition ed.). Elsevier Saunders. p. 148.
- Kumar, Abbas and Fausto, eds., Robbins and Cotran's Pathologic Basis of Disease, 7th edition, p.470.
- Kliegman RM, Marcdante KJ, Jenson HB, Behrman RE (2006). Nelson's Essentials of Pediatrics (fifth edition ed.). Elsevier Saunders. p. 229.
- "Chinese babies born with birth defects every 30 seconds". 30 October 2007.