Birth defects refer to a problem that occurs in the baby while it is developing in the womb. Birth defects can range from minor to severe and can require long term or permanent treatments. The best-case scenario is that birth minor birth defects are harmless and don’t impair the baby or its growth.

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More serious and severe birth defects can result in death. Most birth defects become clear within the first three months of pregnancy as the baby’s organs are still forming.

Treatments can be done as soon as the baby is suspected of having a birth. Ongoing long term treatment after birth is also most likely necessary.

Types of Birth Defects

Birth Defects

Birth defects are commonly identified as being structural or functional. Structural defects occur when a specific body part is either missing or malformed.

Deformities of structural defects can occur in certain organs or bones. Functional birth defects, on the other hand, are abnormalities in the neurological, endocrine, and immune system. This can often lead to a mental disability, sensory impairment, nervous system, and metabolic system problems.

Below is a list of a few common types of each birth defect.


  • Heart defects
  • Cleft lip or palate
  • Clubfoot
  • Spina bifida


  • Down syndrome
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Sickle cell disease

To learn more about the different types of defects, its symptoms, and how to spot them out, speak with your doctor or health care provider.

Causes of Birth Defects

Birth Defects

The exact causes of birth defects are often unknown. However, there are certain risk factors and contributing causes that may be the reason why some babies are born with it.

Obvious reasons as to why defects occur can include, genetic factors, lifestyle and behavioural factors, the use of certain medications before, or during pregnancy, as well as exposure to certain toxic chemicals. Infections, illnesses, and injury during pregnancy are also often the main culprit, as well as a combination of all the above factors. 

Certain risk factors that may contribute to birth defects include:

  • Family history of birth defects
  • Lack of prenatal care
  • Drug abuse
  • Use of high-risk medicine
  • Untreated viral or bacterial infections during pregnancy
  • Pre-existing health condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure
  • Maternal age of 35 years or older         

Diagnosis of Birth Defects

Birth Defects

During regular check-ups throughout your maternity process, your doctor will check for any visible signs of defects using multiple tools and tests. The most common type would be prenatal ultrasounds in utero.

More in-depth options, such as blood tests can also be done. More advanced testing is usually recommended to women who are at a higher risk of having a birth defect in their baby due to risk factors.

The objective of your doctor is to try and identify any signs of defects before symptoms even show up. A physical examination and hearing test can also be done to help diagnose birth defects.

It is worth noting that prenatal screening doesn’t always give you a result even though there may be a birth defect present. Screening can also falsely identify a defect that really may not even be a defect. Certain defects can only be diagnosed with certainty after birth.


Birth Defects

Depending on the type of defect and its severity, treatments will vary. Some medications can be subtle for minor and harmless defects, while other treatments may be ongoing and resource-consuming if the defect is severe or serious.

Severe defects such as cerebral palsy or spina bifida will require life-long treatment and can still result in fatality. Certain treatments can include:

1. Personal Care

Your doctor or health care provider will give you certain types of instructions for raising your baby. The advice can range from feeding, bathing, and general care of your child in the hope that the defect can be properly managed and monitored. 

2. Medication

Medications can help your child cope with symptoms after birth. Your doctor will recommend the best ones depending on the type of defects as well as their health condition. Your doctor may also prescribe you with medication to lower the risk of the defect and hopefully correct it before birth. 

3. Surgery

Surgery can help with certain structural defects and ease symptoms at the same time. Although it may not be completely correct the defect, it can help people to cope with birth defects as they get older. 


Birth Defects

Especially if you are trying to conceive, it’s always important to assess the risk factors of birth defects, and have a general awareness that there is a potential for it. Although the underlying cause of birth defects is still relatively unknown, minimizing your risk by avoiding the risk factors is essential.

You and your partner need to live a healthy lifestyle with exercise and a healthy diet. Cut poor habits, such as smoking and other risk factors. It is highly recommended for you and your partner to seek professional medical advice if you have any of the above risk factors and are trying to conceive. 

Head over to the Okadoc app to immediately book an appointment with your health practitioner.