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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.

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Last reviewed: August 2018

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Digestive tract birth defects - Better Health Channel

Too much amniotic fluid surrounding the baby during pregnancy (polyhydramnios) may indicate the presence of defects of the digestive tract.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Cleft Lip & Palate - Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons

A cleft is a birth defect where the two halves of the palate and/or the lip don’t fuse properly, leaving an open space or ‘cleft’.

Read more on Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons website

Trisomy disorders - Better Health Channel

Children affected by trisomy usually have a range of birth defects, including delayed development and intellectual disabilities.

Read more on Better Health Channel 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

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) and pregnancy

Folate is a B group vitamin that helps prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects, such as spina bifida

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

Spina bifida

Spina bifida is a condition that affects the normal development of a baby’s spine early in pregnancy.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

What is a childhood disability?

Learn more about childhood disabilities such as congenital disorders, disabilities developed after birth and disabilities caused by injury.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Hips - developmental dysplasia of the hip in babies

Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH) is the name used to describe a range of ways a babys hip might not develop normally

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

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