BIRTH DEFORMITIES AND CONGENITAL ABNORMALITIES
These two terms are often used interchangeably. Birth defects are rare, usually minor and cause no harm to the
baby. The more serious ones include hare lip, cleft palate, congenital heart disease, Down’s Syndrome and spina
CAUSES: Do not feel guilty if your baby is born with a
birth defect; it is usually due to a factor beyond your
Two avoidable causes of birth deformities, however, are
the use of alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy.
Similarly, certain drugs taken during pregnancy,
especially during the first 3 months, can cause problems. If you
are pregnant, don’t take any drug without first checking
with your doctor.
Birth defects could also be due to abnormalities of chromosomes. These are present in the nuclei of all our
body cell except the red cells. We have 46 chromosomes.
Twentythree are passed to the child from the father and 23 from the mother. These chromosomes carry several genes on which
depend our looks, the colour of our eyes and the size of our nose, and also the way different cells in our body
Abnormalities of chromosomes can result in certain diseases like Down’s Syndrome.
If the defect is due to a chromosomal abnormality, and
this happens to be your first child, you could not have done
much to prevent it.
PREVENTION: Discuss the risk of birth defects with your doctor if you are married to a close relative
(consanguineous marriage), if you have diabetes, the thalassemia trait (see
Amzemia) or any infection like
German measles during pregnancy.
It is advisable for parents of a child with a birth defect to seek the advice of a genetic counsellor before
they decide to have another child, because some defects can occur in more than one child. Your family doctor or
paediatrician can guide you in this matter.
Folic acid taken during pregnancy greatly reduces the chances of the baby being born with spina
11 February, 2013