For expecting mothers, your new baby’s health will always be top of mind. And one of the biggest concerns for moms-to-be is birth defects. Even though the probability of birth defects is low in most cases, the thought of having a baby with a birth defect can keep an expecting mom up at night.
If you do the research, you’ll find that these types of problems with newborns are very rare, and there are certain things you can do to reduce your chances of having a baby with birth defects.
Here are the 5 most common birth defects and some tips on how you can reduce your risk.
1. Clubfoot – 1 in every 593 births
The most common type of birth defect according to the CDC is clubfoot. This is when a baby is born with a shortened Achilles tendon, causing the foot to point down and inward. Clubfoot is twice as common in baby boys than girls, and can be treated with casting and bracing. Most babies that receive this treatment grow up to wear normal shoes and live active lives, but in some severe cases the problem may not be correctable. Doctor’s don’t really know what causes clubfoot, but you can reduce your risk by avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
2. Down Syndrome – 1 in every 707 births
Down syndrome occurs when a baby is born with an extra chromosome. Women who are over the age of 35 have an increased risk of having a baby with this birth defect. According to the CDC, you can reduce your risk of developing a baby with Down Syndrome and other birth defects by avoiding harmful substances, choosing a healthy lifestyle, and also by taking 400 mcg of folic acid every day.
3. Pulmonary valve atresia and stenosis – 1 in every 1,052 births
Pulmonary valve atresia is a heart birth defect where the valve that controls the flow of blood to the heart did not form at all. Pulmonary valve stenosis occurs when the newborn’s heart is underdeveloped causing a narrowing of the valve that controls the heart. Pulmonary valve atresia is especially dangerous to a new baby and in many cases, they will need surgery soon after birth to fix it. The exact cause of this birth defect is unknown, but it’s widely thought to be a genetic condition and mother’s who are obese are at an increased risk.
4. Cleft lip with cleft palate – 1 in every 1,563 births
A cleft palate and/or cleft lip occurs when the baby’s upper-lip and roof of the mouth do not fully develop during pregnancy. It leaves a split in the upper lip of the baby, and can adversely affect their feeding through the first months of life. Cleft lip and cleft palate are widely thought to be genetic, so parents who’ve had family members with this condition may be at increased risk. Smoking and consuming alcohol could also increase your risk for your newborn having a cleft palate. It is a treatable condition once the baby reaches 10-12 months of age. There is a surgery called palatoplasty that will close the opening between the nose and mouth.
5. Coarctation of the aorta – 1 in every 1,795 births
Coarctation of the aorta is one of the most common congenital heart defects that occur in babies. It is when the aorta develops more narrow than usual. It’s unclear what causes this birth defect, but it is more common in families with genetic disorders, especially Turner syndrome. Boys are twice as likely to be born with coarctation of the aorta, and if left untreated it can lead to cardiovascular problems later in life.
These 5 birth defects are the most common that occur in babies. As you can see, the probability of your baby being born with one of these is very low, and by leading a healthy lifestyle during your pregnancy you can reduce your risk of most of these.
There are many online support groups for new moms to research these birth defects. Knowledge is power when it comes to your pregnancy, so be sure to do your research and stay healthy!