What are the Causes & Types of Prenatal Birth Defects

Prenatal birth defects can be functional or structural abnormalities that are in the unborn baby right from the womb and this can cause mental or physical disability. Some birth defects might be fatal too.

There are several reasons for birth defects, and prenatal birth defects can even cause death. Thus, doctors advice prenatal screening for birth defects when the baby is in the womb.

Causes of Birth Defects

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Causes of Birth Defects

There are several causes of birth defects. In fact, that is the reason that doctors suggest upon prenatal testing for birth defects. Some of the common causes are as follows -

  • Genetic problems happen in babies when one or more genes do not work properly. Sometimes genetic defects can also happen when a portion of the gene is missing.
  • A part of chromosome that is missing or an extra chromosome can also cause birth defects.
  • Sometimes environmental factors that the pregnant woman might be exposed to can also cause birth defects. German measles or Rubella, consumption of excessive alcohol or drugs or using certain medicines can also cause birth defects.

Various Types of Birth Defects

Developmental/functional and structural defects are the two kinds of birth defects.

  • Structural birth defects: This is related to defects in the body. Physical problems such as heart defects, cleft lip or cleft palate are some of the more common birth defects. Abnormally-shaped limbs like club foot and misshaped or missing valves are also not uncommon birth defects.

    Structural birth defects also include neural tube defects such as spina bifida which concern the spinal cord and brain.
  • Functional defects: Functional birth defects on the other hand related to how the body or a part works. Functional birth defects lead to developmental-related disabilities and include problems such as brain problems or nervous system-related defects such as movement trouble, convulsions, language and speech difficulties, behavioral disorders, mental retardation and learning disabilities. Birth defects that cause a problem in the nervous system include Fragile X syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Down syndrome, and Autism.
  • Sensory defects: Sensory problems include visual problems, cataracts and blindness as well as hearing loss and deafness.
  • Metabolic disorders: Metabolic disorders include a body process, reaction or chemical pathway. For example, health problems that reduces the ability of the body to flush out chemicals or waste/toxic materials. Hypothyroidism and phenylketonuria (PKU) are common metabolic disorders.
  • Degenerative disorders: Degenerative disorders are health problems that may not be obvious when the baby is born and only starts surfacing when the child develops one and more health problems, which get worse over time.

Treatment for Birth Defects

There are various ways to treat birth defects. We suggest that you consult your doctor about the various treatments available for the baby.

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