Overview of Birth DefectsWhat is a birth defect?
A "birth defect" is a health problem or physical change, which is present in a baby at the time he/she is born. Birth defects may be very mild where the baby looks and acts like any other baby, or birth defects may be very severe, where you can immediately tell there is a health problem present. Some of the severe birth defects can be life threatening, where a baby may only live a few months, or may die at a young age (in their teens, for example).
Birth defects are also called "congenital anomalies" or "congenital abnormalities." The word "congenital" means "present at birth." The words "anomalies" and "abnormalities" mean that there is a problem present in a baby.
How frequently do birth defects occur?
|Most babies are born healthy. In fact, 96 to 97 out of every 100 babies born is born healthy. About three or four out of every 100 babies born, however, has some type of birth defect.|
What causes birth defects to occur?
|There are many reasons why birth defects happen. Most occur due to environmental and genetic factors. About 40 percent of all birth defects have a known cause. The remaining 60 percent of birth defects do not have a known cause. You may find it surprising that scientists and physicians have not determined the cause for all birth defects. This is why there is a lot of research into the causes of birth defects, to understand more about why they happen and how to prevent them.|
Who is affected by birth defects?
|Birth defects have been present in babies from all over the world, in families of all nationalities and backgrounds. Anytime a couple becomes pregnant, there is a chance that their baby will have a birth defect. As mentioned above, this chance is three to four out of 100, or 3 to 4 percent. This means that there is a 96 to 97 percent chance with each pregnancy, for a baby to be born normal and healthy. The "3 to 4 percent" number is sometimes called the "background rate for birth defects" or the "population risk for birth defects." |
In a family where birth defects are already present, the chance for a couple to have a child with a birth defect may be higher than the background rate of 3 to 4 percent.
What are the genetic and environmental causes of birth defects?
|When a baby is born with a birth defect, the first question usually asked by the parents is "how did this happen?" Sometimes, this question cannot be answered. This can be very upsetting for parents because it is normal to search for and desire an answer as to why your baby has a health problem. For about 40 percent of birth defects, however, there is a known cause, which has to do with either genetic or environmental factors, or a combination of the two. Here is some general information and terms related to the different causes of birth defects:|
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