Baby Birth Defects

Common Birth Defects

It is the hope of all parents that their babies will be born perfect. Sadly there are infants who are born with defects but thanks to the wonders of modern technology and the advances in medical science, most birth defects can be rectified.


Congenital heart defects

The most common of all birth defects are those which affect the heart and in fact one in two hundred babies are born with either a slight or a considerable heart defect. Heart defects can be detected during pregnancy or may be picked up at birth. If an infant is born with a severe heart defect, the chances are that the problem will only be discovered later. The most common symptoms of a congenital heart defect are a shortness of breath, fast and rapid breathing. In the later months, these symptoms coupled with slow growth will indicate a heart defect.

If a heart defect is suspected (either before birth or after birth), a specialist will be called to assesses the severity of the defect. The thorough physical examination will be carried out and the pediatric cardiologist will listen to the heart using a stethoscope. Once the severity of the defect has been assessed, the pediatric cardiologist will inform parents of the diagnosis as well as what treatment is best.



The natural reaction of most mothers when hearing that their child has a birth defect is to blame themselves, thinking that it is something they did wrong during the pregnancy. This is not the case and experts believe that most heart defects are hereditary and usually one of the parents has a congenital heart defect themselves. Another contributing cause of heart defects is genetics and this is proven by the fact that more than half of infants born with Down syndrome will have a slight or severe heart defect.


The outcome

If an infant was born with a congenital heart defect fifty years ago, the prognosis was bleak. Today cardiologists have made amazing strides in the area and most children born with a heart defect are able to enjoy an active and full life. There are of course, severe cases which may require the child to undergo long term treatment or lifelong medication, but for the most part, infants who are born with a congenital heart defect and who receive instant medical treatments, are expected to recover fully and lead a healthy and normal life. Certain issues such as nutrition and exercising may be different for a child born without a heart defect but because of the many advances that have been made in medical science a congenital heart defect can be treated.


Birth defects of the lip and roof of the mouth

These defects are commonly referred to as cleft palates or cleft lips and it is estimated that one in one thousands babies are born with a defect that affects the lip or roof of the mouth. During pregnancy scans, obstetricians can pick up the defect and this will give parents the chance to prepare themselves and also find out as much information about the defect as possible. Once the child is born, a team of doctors will need to evaluate the severity of the defect and determine the best course of action. Again, the advances which have been made in the medical world, allows this defect to be treated effectively and a child will be able to enjoy a normal life.



Even though this birth defect is relatively common, little is known as to what causes the cleft lip or palate. Experts are undecided as to whether the cause is linked to genetics or environmental factors, however if an infant is born with a cleft  palette or lip, it is more than likely that one of the parents, siblings or a family member suffered with the same birth defect. As such, more experts are of the belief that genetics has a lot to do with this defect.

Recently, the medical professions felt that certain medications could also be responsible for cleffting in newborns. It was discovered that pregnant moms who took anti seizure medications or drugs used to treat certain cancers, or arthritis could be a cause for the birth defect.


The outcome

A team of medical professionals will work together to treat the cleft palette or lip and more than one surgery will be required and the surgeries will usually be done over many years before the defect is completely treated. Since the defect cannot be instantly rectified, babies suffering from a cleft palette or cleft lip will have feeding problems. There are specially designed baby feeding bottles available, to help with the feeding of the infant. In later years, toddlers will have speech problems and dental problems and children with cleft palates are prone to ear infections due to the fluid buildup in the middle year.

Unlike a heart defect, cleft palette sufferers will need to be tended to by a team of doctors, each of whom will perform a specific task to rectify the defect. The team will be made up of a dentist, an ENT doctor, an orthodontist, a speech therapist and a plastic surgeon. Many parents find that joining support groups help to face the challenges ahead and they are able to interact with other families who have gone through the dozens of surgeries and procedures to reflect the defeat.

Once corrected and even during the corrective surgeries, children can live a normal life and parents should encourage their children to interact with other kids.


Support groups

Parents can visit the following website:

There are several other types of common birth defects, some of which are life-threatening and require immediate medical intervention. When pregnant mothers go for regular checkups, in a lot of cases these defects can be detected. Early detection is vital, especially when defects are life-threatening.

A natural response of mothers is to feel blame, anger and sadness; however the team of medical professionals is on hand to offer guidance and support and they are trained to know how to deal with the defect to help the infant to enjoy a normal life.


  – Kathy Baron


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