Birth Defects: Types, Causes, and Treatments

About Birth Defects

Birth defects are structural changes that occur during pregnancy and can affect almost any part of the body (e.g., heart, brain, foot). They may have an impact on how the body looks, works, or both.

Birth defects can range from minor to severe. They may have an impact on physical and mental development, as well as appearance and organ function. The majority of birth defects appear during the first three months of pregnancy when the organs are still developing. Some birth defects are not dangerous. Others necessitate long-term medical care.

Types of Structural Birth Defects

Birth defects are typically classified as structural or developmental. If they are structural, they are related to body parts.

Below are examples of the most common structural birth defects

  • Heart defects

A heart defect is a structural issue with the heart. Children with heart defects were born with it. Also, heart defects are frequently referred to as “congenital,” which means “present at birth.” Heart defects are also known as “congenital heart disease” in some cases.

Moreover, the most common congenital anomalies are heart defects. Most have no obvious cause, but if a pregnant woman suffers from diabetes or smokes during pregnancy, it will increase the chances. When part of the heart cannot form normally in the uterus, heart abnormalities occur. This will affect the degree of blood circulation throughout the body.

  • Limb reduction

Upper and lower limb reduction defects occur when a fetus’s arm (upper limb) or leg (lower limb) fails to fully develop during pregnancy. Because a limb is reduced from its normal size or is missing, the defect is referred to as a “limb reduction.”

The cause of limb reduction is unknown. Exposure to chemicals or infections during pregnancy might increase the chance.

  • Cleft lip or palate

Cleft lip and palate babies are born with a gap or opening in the upper lip. This occurs when the baby’s lip fails to develop properly early in pregnancy, resulting in a split. A cleft lip occurs when the tissue that makes up the lip does not completely join before birth. As a result, an opening appears in the upper lip.
This can have an impact on speech, hearing, and eating.

Types of Developmental Birth Defects

Developmental birth defects mean they have an impact on how the body functions, how a person learns, or how the senses work.

This list gives a brief overview of the most common developmental birth defects:

  • Down Syndrome

Babies with Down syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21, which changes how the brain and body Down syndrome babies have an extra copy of chromosome 21, which affects how the brain and body develop. People with Down syndrome may have physical issues, learning difficulties, and distinctive physical characteristics. Many people with Down syndrome are healthy, but some require medical attention due to birth defects or other health issues.

  • Visual Impairment

Blindness that occurs at birth is referred to as congenital blindness; in this case, the baby will most likely never be able to see. There are various degrees of visual impairment, and some people with birth defects that affect the sensory organs only have a mild visual impairment.

  • Hearing Impairments

Hearing loss is a common birth defect that can have an impact on a baby’s ability to develop speech, language, and social skills. It can occur when any part of the ear is not functioning normally. Most newborns have their hearing tested as part of newborn screening before being discharged from the hospital.


  • Heart defects– are cause by abnormal heart formation during fetal development. When a baby is born with a congenital heart defect, there is usually no known cause.
  • Limb deformities– The cause of limb deformity is unknown. Pregnancy-related exposure to chemicals or infections may increase the risk.
  • Cleft lip or palate-Cleft lip and palate are cause by a combination of genes and environmental factors, such as what the mother comes into contact with in her environment, what she eats or drinks, or certain medications she uses during pregnancy.
  • Down Syndrome– is cause by abnormal cell division during the development of a sperm or egg cell.
  • Visual Impairment Structural abnormalities affecting any part of the eye, from front to back, may contribute to pediatric low vision.
  • Hearing Impairment– Hearing loss can occur at any age, from before birth to adulthood. Maternal infections during pregnancy, complications after birth, and head trauma cause one out of every four cases of hearing loss in babies


  • Heart Defects– children with congenital heart defects do not need a treatment, but others do. Treatment can include medicines, catheter procedures, surgery, and heart transplants.
  • Limb deformities– The overall goal for treatment of limb reduction defects is to provide the child with a limb that has proper function and appearance. Treatment can vary for each child. Potential treatments include prosthetics, orthotics, surgery, rehabilitation.
  • Cleft lip or palate– Children with a cleft lip or palate will need several treatments and assessments as they grow up. A cleft is usually treated with surgery.
  • Down Syndrome– . Early treatment programs can help improve skills. They may include speech, physical, occupational, and/or educational therapy. With support and treatment, many people with Down syndrome live happy, productive lives.
  • Visual Impairment– Options may include eyeglasses, contact lenses, and eye drops or other medicines. In some cases, surgery may be required.
  • Hearing Impairment– Treatment may include: Cochlear implant. This is a small electronic device that can help some babies with severe or profound hearing loss. One part of the implant sits on the head behind the ear.

It is not always possible to detect all birth defects while the baby is still in the womb. High-resolution ultrasounds performed by certified prenatal ultrasound groups, on the other hand, allow for the detection of defects that will have a significant impact before birth. The treatment will be determined by your child’s symptoms, age, and overall health. It will also be determined by the severity of the condition.

Many birth defects are unavoidable, but there are some steps you can take to reduce your chances of having a baby with a birth defect. Women who want to get pregnant should start taking folic acid supplements before they get pregnant. During and after pregnancy, women should abstain from alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. They should also exercise caution when administering certain medications. Some normally safe medications can cause serious birth defects when taken by a pregnant woman. Make sure to tell your doctor about any medications you may be taking, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements.

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