World birth defects day 2022 is observed on 3rd March of every year. First ever world birth defects day was observed in 2015.
Birth defects are the structural defect or functional defects in the newborn baby which is detected during intrauterine life, at birth or after a few days of birth. So let’s understand basic knowledge about birth defects.
The theme of world birth defects day is Many birth defects, One voice.
What are birth defects ?
Birth defects are the defects in the newborn baby which cause structural abnormality or functional abnormality in the newborn.
Birth defects are also known as congenital defects or congenital abnormalities or congenital disorders.
Some birth defects are detected when the mother is pregnant with the help of the ultrasonography, most of them are detected at the birth and others are detected during infancy.
What are the causes of birth defects in newborns ?
Birth defects most commonly occur during the first trimester of the pregnancy as during this period, the baby’s organs start to develop. Some birth defects occur during the second or third trimester of the pregnancy.
The causes of birth defects in newborns are as follows.
- Chromosomal abnormality is the most common cause for development of the birth defect in newborn. Absence of chromosome, extra chromosome or some changes in chromosomal structure is responsible for birth defects in newborn.
- If any blood relative has a birth defect in the past then there are chances of birth defect in the baby. So it is always better to consult your doctor for genetic counseling.
- Smoking or alcohol consumption by mothers during pregnancy is a common reason responsible for birth defects in their baby. It is one of the preventable causes as we can stop such addiction to avoid birth defects in babies.
- Taking certain drugs during pregnancy may cause birth defects in newborns. The drugs which cause birth defects in newborns are known as teratogenic drugs. There are a lot of drugs which are teratogenic drugs so it is always better to consult your doctor before taking any drug.
- If a mother has suffered from high grade fever during pregnancy due to any kind of infection or heat exposure, chances of birth defect in the baby increases.
- Certain viral infections during pregnancy like cytomegalovirus, Zika virus are responsible for deadly birth defects in newborns.
- Maternal age is one of the risk factors for development of the birth defects in the newborn. As the maternal age increases ( more than 35 years of age), chances of chromosomal abnormalities in the newborn increases.
- Obesity and uncontrolled diabetes, like medical problems, are responsible for birth defects in the newborn.
What are the types of birth defects in a newborn ?
The birth defects are mainly structural or functional in nature.
Structural birth defect
As the name suggests structural means there is alteration of structure of the body part of the newborn. The structural birth defects are as following
- Cleft lip and cleft palate
Cleft lip means abnormal opening in the upper lip of the baby and cleft palate means abnormal opening in the roof of the mouth.
Some babies have cleft lip on one side which is known as unilateral cleft lip while some has cleft lip on bilateral side which is known as bilateral cleft lip.
Most commonly cleft lip is present with cleft palate.
Cleft lip or cleft palate may occur due to smoking during pregnancy, improper nutrition during pregnancy, exposure to certain chemicals during pregnancy.
Cleft lip and cleft palate are responsible for feeding problems, delay growth and development, infection in the ear, speech problems.
It is very important to treat cleft lip surgically at the age of 6 month while cleft palate is at the age of 12 month to 18 month. Both are surgically treatable birth defects.
Hypospadias is a structural defect of the urethra. Urethra is the tube which carries urine from the urinary bladder to outside.
Normally urethral opening is present at the tip of the penis. In hypospadias, opening of the urethra is present below the penis. Opening may be present anywhere from the scrotum on the dorsal side of the penis. Sometimes penis is also curved along with hypospadias which is known as chordee.
Most commonly hypospadias occur in premature newborns or if there is history of hypospadias in the family.
Hypospadias do not cause any problem if the urethral opening is just below the tip of the penis but if the opening of the urethral is far away from the tip of the penis then while peeing baby’s urine falls on his leg. So hypospadias need to be operated on properly at the age of 6 month to 12 month.
If chordee is severe then it is operated in two stage procedures.
- Ventricular septal defect
Ventricular septal defect is the defect present in the two chambers of the heart in which there is hole between two ventricles of the heart. Ventricles are chambers of the heart which pump blood.
As there is hole between two chambers of the heart there is mixing oxygenated and deoxygenated blood in the heart.
Baby with ventricular septal defect has difficulty in breathing, gets tired early while breastfeeding, excessive cry and sweating during feeding. They suffer from frequent lower respiratory tract infections.
Small ventricular septal defect will not cause any problem in children. If a baby has a large ventricular septal defect, then it needs to be corrected surgically at the age of 3 month to 6 month by a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon. So it is one of the treatable birth defects.
- Spina bifida
Spina bifida is the structural defect of the backbone so there is gap between bones of the spine and covering of the spine means meninges are open.
If the meningeal membrane is outside and cerebrospinal fluid is present in it then it is known as meningocele.
If along with spinal fluid spinal cord structure is also present then it is known as meningomyelocele.
Prenatal ultrasonography or alpha fetoprotein test can diagnose spina bifida during intrauterine period.
Mild spina bifida may not need much more treatment but if the baby has meningocele or meningomyelocele then it needs to be corrected surgically by neurosurgeon, pediatric surgeon.
- Imperforate anus
Imperforate anus is the condition in which anal opening is absent in newborn baby. It is one of the birth defects which require emergency surgical correction.
Imperforate anus is corrected surgically in three steps. Parents need huge patience while treatment of their baby is going on.
- Tracheoesophageal fistula
Tracheoesophageal fistula is the abnormal connection between the food pipe means esophagus and breathing tube means trachea.
Due to abnormal connection when baby is given feed it may get aspirated in the lungs through trachea. So it is a life -threatening condition.
Early detection of the defect and timely treatment from pediatric surgeons gives better prognosis in such patients.
- Metabolic disorder – Metabolic disorder is responsible for functional defects in the newborn baby.
- Cerebral palsy – Difficult delivery of the newborn baby, birth asphyxia, prematurity are the most common reasons responsible for cerebral palsy.
- Sickle cell anemia – It is a disease in which red blood cells are not properly developed which do not carry oxygenated blood throughout the body. The shape of red blood cells in sickle cell anemia is sickle shaped.
- Thalassemia – It is an inherited red blood cell disorder in which there is less production of hemoglobin which is oxygen carrying protein.
What is the motive of world birth defects day 2022 ?
The main motives of world birth defects day are as follows
- Reduce occurance of the birth defect by using prevention strategies
- Educate families about the knowledge of the birth defect.
- Improve the quality of life of families in which a birth defect baby is born.
- Develop training courses for birth defect education.
Prevention of birth defects
- Avoid addictions during pregnancy
Alcohol drinking and smoking has a big impact on the fetus during pregnancy. Alcohol can easily travel from maternal blood to fetal blood which is risky for fetus as sometimes miscarriage can happen, structural deformity and decreased intellectual ability will be seen in such kids.
Smoking during pregnancy is very harmful for the baby as it may lead to premature birth, cleft lip, cleft palate in newborns. Smoking must be stopped before you are going to plan your pregnancy.
- Prevent infection during pregnancy
Maternal care is very important during pregnancy as certain infections like cytomegalovirus, rubella cause congenital anomalies in the newborn babies.
Fever in infection has deleterious effects on the fetus as well. If a mother suffers from fever during pregnancy, then immediately consultation with your treating doctor is advised.
- Folic acid during pregnancy
When you are going to plan your pregnancy, folic acid which is vitamin B must be started before pregnancy and first trimester of the pregnancy as it prevents development of neural tube defects like spina bifida, anencephaly in the newborn. You must consult your obstetrician regularly to get proper tips to follow during pregnancy.
- Be Healthy during pregnancy
It is always good to be healthy while you are pregnant. If you are too obese, you must reduce your weight to avoid complications at the time of delivery.
If you are suffering from diabetes before the pregnancy, you must have control on your sugar level which helps to reduce chances of birth defects in newborn.
- Keep your Mood Happy
If you keep your mood happy then your baby will be also be happy. So always try to engage in an activity which keeps you happy. Reading some good books, watching good videos, listening to silent music during pregnancy will maintain your mental balance.
World birth defects day is celebrated for educating the future parents and giving inspiration for the existing parents who have birth defects in their babies.
Your one mistake will make your baby suffer for his long life. So be alert in the time and if you follow proper care during pregnancy, you can reduce the chances of the birth defect in a newborn. So educate each others about the birth defects on the occasion of world birth defects day.
Ref – World birth defects day