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Common Birth Defects

The most common birth defect is called the oral cleft, which can be the cleft lip or cleft palate. The cleft lip is characterized by a cavity between the nose and the upper lip, while the cleft palate is a cavity that exists between the nasal cavity and the roof of the mouth. Both the cleft lip and the cleft palate are the results of the underdevelopment of the lip or mouth tissues. Both environmental and genetic factors have been cited as the cause of oral clefts but no specific factor has been singled out as the ultimate cause. Fortunately, the cleft can be healed surgically.

NTD - neural tube defect

Another common defect is the NTD or the neural tube defect, which can be the spina bifida or the anencephaly. It occurs during the first four weeks of pregnancy when the brain and the spinal column are developing. If the spinal column does not completely seal up the spinal cord, the baby is suffering from spina bifida. And if some parts of the brain did not sufficiently develop, the baby is suffering from anencephaly. The risk of acquiring these NTDs can be greatly reduced if the expectant mother has taken enough folic acid.

Cerebral palsy

Another common birth defect is cerebral palsy, which is the occurrence of damage in a particular part of the brain and leads to the loss of control of muscle movement. There are many forms of cerebral palsy and it is manifested in different ways, such as mental retardation, aphasia and inability to walk. Some of the cited causes of cerebral palsy are premature birth and rubella which is contracted by the expectant mother.

The other common birth defects are:

  • clubfoot
  • hypothyroidism
  • cystic fibrosis
  • FAS or fetal alcohol syndrome

The last one is due to the mother’s abuse of alcohol, which is clearly an environmental risk factor. Some birth defects, however, have been known to be caused by genetic factors.

Related links

Alcohol and Premature Birth
Premature Birth
Premature Birth Statistics
Natural childbirth   


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