10 common birth defects that can occur in newborns

By , K24 Digital
On Thu, 2 Mar, 2023 09:00 | 4 mins read
A mother holding a baby. PHOTO/Courtesy

As much as you would wish that pregnancy and child delivery go as smooth as possible, the reality is that it is not always the case.

One small error, such as gene mutation, an extra chromosome or a structure forming abnormally can lead to a complicated, and financially draining life for you and your child. Finding about a birth defect can be devastating, but knowledge is power, so Winnie Kimani put together a few of them

  1. Hypospadias

This is a male defect that occurs when opening of the urethra is located on the underside of the penis instead of the tip. This condition is more common in infants with a family history of hypospadias. It’s occurrence in infants is one in every 200 births. This causes difficulty urinating, and surgery is often required.

2. Imperforate anus

Imperforate anus is a congenital (present from birth) defect in which the opening to the anus is missing or blocked. Imperforate anus may occur in several forms: The rectum may end in a blind pouch that does not connect with the colon, or it may have openings to the urethra, bladder, the base of penis or scrotum in boys or the vagina in girls. There may also be stenosis (narrowing) or a complete absence of the anus. The problem is caused by abnormal development of the fetus and may be associated with other birth defects. Imperforate anus is a relatively common condition that occurs in about 1 out of 5,000 infants. Surgical reconstruction of the anus is often needed. If the rectum connects with other organs, repair of these organs will also be necessary through abdominal surgery.

A temporary colostomy is often required. When a colostomy is performed, the large intestine is cut and brought to an opening that is made through the wall of the abdomen. This allows bowel contents to empty into a bag. Later, when the repairs to the child’s organs have healed, the colostomy is removed to allow the child to pass normal bowel movements.

3. Cleft lip or cleft palate

A type of orofacial cleft, this birth defect occurs when the lip does not join completely (cleft lip) and the roof of the mouth does not join completely ( cleft palate). It is a common birth condition, that can occur alone or as a part of a genetic condition or syndrome. Surgery during the first 12 to 18 months of your child’s life to restore normal function with minimal scarring is necessary. If required, speech therapy helps correct speaking difficulties.

4. Limb defects

The defect describes any abnormality at the arms or legs. It is when the arm or leg does not form normally as a baby grows in the uterus. The exact cause of a congenital limb defect is often not known, but certain things such as, gene problems or exposure to some viruses or chemicals have been blamed. Its occurrence is one in every 1,943 births. Treatment for limb deformities range from physical therapy and bracing to surgery and prosthetics.

5. Ventricular septal defect

A ventricular septal defect is a common heart defect most often present at birth, but it can occur in adults after surgery or a heart attack. It is known as the hole in the heart. Its occurrence is one in every 240 births. The defect occurs when the wall between the left and the right ventricle does not form properly and leaves an opening between the two. Some ventricular septal defects get smaller or close on their own while larger holes require surgery or a catheter-based procedure to close the hole.

6. Antrioventricular septal defect

This common type of heart defect occurs when there is both a hole in the heart and a problem with heart valves. A partial defect involves a hole between the atria (upper chamber) and an abnormal mitral value. A complete defect involves a large hole where the atria and ventricles meet an abnormal valve between the atria and ventricles instead of having separate valves. Atrial septal defects that aren’t diagnosed until adulthood can damage the heart and lungs, shortening life. Small Atrial septal defects may close on their own. Medium to large sized Atrial septal defects may need surgical attention.

7. Pulmonary valve atresia and stenosis

There are congenital heart defects where the valve that lets blood flow from the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery is either not formed or is narrow. As a result, blood does not flow to the lungs correctly. This condition can be treated with medicines, heart cathetrisation or heart surgery.

8. Clubfoot

It is a foot abnormality in which the foot turns inward or twisted out of shape or position. It is the most musculoskeletal birth defect. In utero, tendons that connect muscle to bone are shorter, causing the foot to turn inward instead of facing flat. Clubfoot can generally be treated conservatively through gentle stretching and physical therapy. In some cases, clubfoot requires bracing and eventual surgery to adjust the tendons, ligaments and joints of the foot and ankle.

9. Spina bifida

There is no one known cause of spina bifida. The condition is thought to be caused by a malformation of a neural tube (the embryonic structure that develops into the brain and spine) that prevents the backbone from closing completely during fetal development. Some cases of neural-tube defects can be detected through tests given to the pregnant person during pregnancy. When one is suspected, the baby usually is delivered by caesarean section, so specialists can be on hand during and after the birth.

Spina bifida ranges in severity from practically harmless to causing leg paralysis and bladder and bowel control problems.

In the most severe cases, the baby is operated on within 48 hours of birth.

Parents then learn how to exercise the baby’s legs and feet to prepare them for walking with leg braces and crutches. Some children will eventually need to use a wheelchair and work with specialists in orthopedics and urology.

10. Microtia

It happens when the external ear is small and not formed properly. It usually happens during the first few weeks of pregnancy. These defect can vary from being barely noticeable to being a major problem with how the ear formed. Its treatment include using a silicone prothesis, augmenting the ear with rib cartilage, or use of an ear implant and also surgery.

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