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What are Congenital Birth Defects?

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  • Written By: Erin Oxendine
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Congenital birth defects are abnormalities that appear in infants and cause severe physical or mental conditions. Some congenital defects are life-threatening and result in death. Many of these issues show up at birth, requiring babies to have long-term medical care.

Doctors classify congenital problems in two categories: structural and developmental disorders. Structural defects cause physical issues and developmental defects cause functional delays. Some people, however, have a combination of structural and developmental symptoms.

There are different reasons people are born with abnormalities including genetics and environmental toxins. Genetics play a big role in congenital birth defects since parents may have an odd number of chromosomes or suffer from a medical or physical condition that shows up in the infant. Parents who consume large amounts of alcohol, abuse drugs or who are exposed to certain chemicals are also at risk of having children with medical impairments.

Some of the various kinds of congenital birth defects include degenerative disorders such as muscular dystrophy and Down syndrome. Muscular dystrophy is a genetic condition that causes the muscles to weaken. This disease often appears at birth but can show up later in life and, in extreme cases, the person may lose the ability to walk and breathe. Down syndrome, also known as trisomy 21, is a disease that results in physical and mental disabilities. The symptoms of Down syndrome include certain facial characteristics present at birth and a decrease in intellectual abilities.

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Most babies who are born with congenital birth defects or adults who are diagnosed with these conditions late in life require treatment. Some individuals may need surgery and physical therapy to correct spinal and lung problems. People who have intellectual delays will often need cognitive rehabilitation including educational therapy and behavioral counselors. There are also outpatient and inpatient facilities that specialize in treating the symptoms associated with these problems.

Physicians encourage women to take care of themselves during pregnancy in an attempt to keep infants healthy and prevent additional developmental disorders. Even though some congenital birth defects are not preventable, physicians still highly suggest to women that they get diagnostic testing during pregnancy to check for health problems. Most doctors advise pregnant women to take vitamins, eat healthy foods and take extra folic acid. Women who smoke, drink or abuse drugs are told to quit doing these things for their health as well as that of the baby.

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