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Birth defects

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Birth defects are quite common. Some are minor and cause little, if any, long term problems. Other birth defects can be 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:

Often there is no known cause of a birth defect. Follow the links below to find trusted information about birth defects.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2020


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Birth Defects | betterhealth.vic.gov.au

Information on birth defects, including fact sheets on types of birth defects, risks and genetic screening.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

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

Congenital diaphragmatic hernia - MyDr.com.au

A congenital diaphragmatic hernia is a birth defect where there is an abnormal hole in the diaphragm, which allows some of the abdominal organs to protrude into the chest.

Read more on myDr website

Amniocentesis: what you need to know - MyDr.com.au

Amniocentesis is a test that can be done in pregnancy. It is possible to tell from the test whether the fetus has certain birth defects.

Read more on myDr 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

Mental illness | betterhealth.vic.gov.au

Mental illnesses may be caused by life events, genetic factors or birth defects. Help is available to prevent or manage mental health problems.

Read more on Better Health Channel 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

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

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