Birth defects are functional or structural deformities which are present in a baby at birth. This may lead to mental or physical disability as the baby grows, and may even be fatal in some complicated cases. There are several birth defects that have been identified through studies or research, where these defects are one of the major causes of deaths among infants.
The different reasons for birth defects include genetic problems, where a part of the gene is missing in the baby, or one or more of the genes are defective. Other than this, a baby might suffer from birth defects due to an extra chromosome or a missing chromosome. Environmental factors such as a woman drinking excessive alcohol or indulging in excessive smoking is likely to have a baby with congenital defects. Also, a woman exposed to German measles or rubella during pregnancy is likely to have a baby with birth defects.
There are two types of birth defects, functional or developmental, and structural. The functional defect affects how a body part works, both externally and internally, thus leading to mental or physical disability. A structural defect includes a missing or misshapen part of the body. This includes external deformity such as cleft palate or cleft lip, abnormal limbs, club foot, and internal deformity such as missing or misshapen valves, neural tube defects, and problems related to brain and spinal cord, thus affecting growth and development of the baby. Some details about the disabilities a baby might suffer due to birth defects are mentioned below:
Sensory Problems: Defects that affect the senses such as eyes and ears, leading to cataracts, blindness or other visual defects, and deafness.
Nervous System or Brain related problems: Defects that affect the brain and spinal cord, leading to learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, mental retardation, slow development, speech disorders, movement problems and convulsions. Such defects include Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, Autism and Prader-Willi syndrome.
Degenerative Disorders: These are conditions that are not obvious at birth; however the baby develops symptoms and deformities during the process of growth. This generally affects the developmental process and may result in Rett syndrome, muscular dystrophy, lysosomal disorders and X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy.
In some rare cases, birth defects may be caused by a combination of above mentioned factors, thus leading to both functional and structural disorders. The treatment for a birth disorder if detected, are different for types of disorders, where some may be treated through surgery, some by medication, and some remain untreated and require help from social and government organizations.