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Birth defects

1-minute read

Birth defects are quite common. Some are minor and cause little, if any, long term problems. Other birth defects are life threatening or cause significant disability. 

Birth defects may affect how the body looks and functions, such as structural problems with bones, skin, nerves or tissues. Examples include cleft lip, spina bifida and neural tube defects. Birth defects can also cause mental disabilities. 

Some of the causes of birth defects include:

  • genetic problems, inherited from one or both parents
  • exposure to chemicals
  • exposure to high risk medicines, which are known to increase the risk of birth defects such as thalidomide, isotretinoin, and lithium.
  • exposure to alcohol — as seen in foetal alcohol syndrome

Follow the links below to find trusted information about birth defects.

Last reviewed: August 2018

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Achondrogenesis (skeletal birth defect) information | myVMC

Achondrogenesis is a skeletal disease caused by birth defects that are thought to be hereditary. It may cause stillbirth or infant death due to small chest.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Spina bifida (split spine) information | myVMC

Spina bifida is a birth defect which is usually obvious in affected newborns. It occurs due to abnormal development of the neural tube in pregnancy.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Heart abnormality birth defects - Better Health Channel

Some congenital heart defects are mild and cause no significant disturbance to the way the heart functions.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

What is a congenital disorder?

Congenital disorder, also known as congenital disease or birth defects, are conditions present from birth. Find out more about congenital disorders.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Pregnancy - Pregnancy Topics - Having a baby with special needs

Sometimes babies are not born healthy or normal. Some parents will have a baby who has a birth defect, who is developmentally delayed or a baby who is born with special needs.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Congenital heart defects

Congenital heart defect (CHD) or congenital heart anomaly is a defect in the structure of the heart and great vessels that is present at birth

Read more on WA Health website

Pregnancy - Pregnancy Topics - Folic acid (Folate)

Folate is a B group vitamin that helps prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Folic acid is changed into folate in the body.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Smoking during pregnancy may lead to behavior problems in children

Researchers have now found evidence that smoking during pregnancy can also lead to behaviourial problems in children.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Club foot

Asmall number of children have what is commonly known as 'club foot' at birth. The correct name is congenital talipes equino varus (CTEV). Congenital means occurring from birth. Talipes means foot deformity. Equino varus describes the position of the foot - toes pointing downwards and the whole foot turned inwards.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Genetic counselling

Genetic counselling may be recommended for people who have a history of hereditary disorders. Find out why you might need counselling and what to expect.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

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