Congenital Anomalies in Children Questions and Answers
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Congenital anomalies can be minor to severe and they may affect organ function, physical and mental development, and appearance. Most birth defects can be evident within the first few months of pregnancy while the organs are still forming. Some birth defects are nothing to worry about, while others require long-term medical treatment.
What are congenital anomalies?
Congenital refers to the existence at or before birth, and approximately 3% to 4% of all babies born in the United States have congenital abnormalities that can affect the way they develop, look, or function for the rest of their lives. Congenital anomalies are caused by problems during the fetus’s development prior to birth. This is why it is important for parents to be healthy and have the right medical care before and during pregnancy in order to help reduce the risk of preventable congenital anomalies.
What are some examples of congenital disorders?
The most common and severe congenital disorders include heart defects, neural tube defects, Down syndrome, spina bifida, cystic fibrosis, and cerebral palsy. There are a number of tips that women should follow in order to prevent congenital disorders: eating a healthy diet with enough minerals and vitamins (folic acid is important during the reproductive years); taking folic acid tablets before pregnancy and for the first trimester of pregnancy; avoiding smoking, alcohol and drugs; controlling diabetes; being vaccinated, especially against rubella; and avoiding exposure to environmental chemicals, like lead and pesticides.
What are causes and risks of birth defects?
While about 50% of all congenital anomalies cannot be linked to a specific cause, there are however some known causes or risk factors. All women who are pregnant have some risk of delivering a child with a birth defect and risk increases when maternal age is 35 years or older, inadequate prenatal care, family history of birth defects or genetic disorders, alcohol use, drug use, or smoking during pregnancy, untreated bacterial infections, including sexually transmitted infections, and use of certain high-risk medications, like lithium and isotretinoin. Women who have pre-existing medical conditions, like diabetes, are also at a higher risk of having a child with a birth defect.
How should I seek treatment and care for my child?
Your doctor is a trusted source on the matter and treatment options vary depending on the condition and level of severity. If your newborn requires immediate medical attention, visit an urgent care clinic near you. There are some birth defects that can be corrected before birth or shortly after. There are other defects however that could affect a child for the rest of their life. Mild defects can be stressful for any parent, but they typically should not affect the overall quality of life. Severe birth defects, like spina bifida or cerebral palsy, can however cause long-term disability, and in some cases even death. You will need to speak with your doctor about the right treatment options for your child’s condition, and they include: medications, surgeries, and even home care. Medications can be used to treat some birth defects and lower the risk of complications from certain defects. Surgeries may also help certain defects or ease harmful symptoms. And home care allows for parents to be instructed on specific instructions that involve bathing, feeding, and monitoring an infant with a birth defect. It is important that you know that a healthcare professional can diagnose birth defects during pregnancy, through prenatal ultrasounds, and through other methods of in-depth screening.