Congenital malformations are birth defects that occur while the baby is developing in the womb. It can involve any part, including the heart, brain, and limbs.
When you’re pregnant, one of the things you worry about is whether or not your baby will be born with any congenital malformations. Malformations can range from mild to severe, and some can even be life-threatening. In this blog post, we will discuss what you can expect if your baby is born with a congenital malformation. We will also provide information on how to get help and support if you are dealing with a newborn who has a birth defect.
What are congenital malformations in newborns?
Congenital malformations in newborns are birth defects or congenital anomalies that occur while the baby is developing in the womb (uterus). These defects can involve any part of the body, including the heart, brain, and limbs. Some congenital malformations are minor and cause no health problems, while others can be life-threatening.
The most common severe birth defects are heart defects, neural tube defects, and Down syndrome. Although birth defects may be the result of one or more genetic, infectious, nutritional, or environmental factors, it is often not possible to determine the cause of a particular birth defect.
What are the chances of having a baby with a congenital malformation?
The chance of having a baby with major congenital anomalies varies depending on the type of malformation. For example, the chance of having a baby with a heart defect is about 0.05%, while the chance of having a baby with Down syndrome is about 0.006%.
What causes congenital malformation in newborns?
There is no single cause of congenital anomalies. Approximately 50% of congenital anomalies cannot be linked to a specific cause. However, known causes include single gene defects, chromosomal disorders, multifactorial inheritance, environmental teratogens, and micronutrient deficiencies. However, some birth defects may be caused by exposure to certain medications or substances during pregnancy, such as alcohol or certain drugs.
Other associated risk factors that may increase the risk of congenital abnormalities include maternal age, certain maternal diseases (diabetes mellitus, arterial hypertension, and hypothyroidism), certain infections during pregnancy, such as rubella (German measles), male gender, positive consanguinity, lack of folic acid supplementation, and certain chromosomal abnormalities.
Types of congenital malformations in newborns
There are many different types of congenital malformations, and they can vary in severity. Some common types of congenital anomalies include:
- Heart defects: These defects can involve the structure of the heart or the blood vessels around the heart. These are managed by medication, surgery, or a combination of both. Some of the defects include:
- Ventricular septal defect: This is a hole in the wall between the two ventricles of the heart.
- Atrial septal defect: This is a hole in the wall between the two atria of the heart.
- Patent ductus arteriosus: This is a condition in which the ductus arteriosus, a blood vessel that normally closes after birth, remains open. This can be managed with medication or surgery.
- Cleft lip and cleft palate: Cleft lip is a split in the upper lip, and cleft palate is a split in the roof of the mouth. These defects are usually treated with surgery.
- Spina bifida: This is a defect in the spinal cord.
- Down syndrome: This is a chromosomal abnormality that causes mental and physical delays.
- Imperforate anus: This is a defect in the development of the rectum and anus.
- Esophageal atresia: This is a defect in the development of the esophagus.
- Anencephaly: This is a birth defect in which the brain does not develop properly. This condition is fatal.
- Meconium ileus: This is a blockage of the intestine.
- Pyloric stenosis: This is a narrowing of the opening between the stomach and the small intestine.
- Examphalos: This is a birth defect in which the brain is abnormally small.
- Craniosynostosis: This is a defect in the bones of the skull.
- Diaphragmatic hernia: This is a defect in the diaphragm.
- Limb malformations: These defects can involve the arms, legs, hands, or feet.
- Hirschsprung disease: This is a defect in the development of the nervous system.
- Duodenal atresia: This is a birth defect in which the duodenum, or the first part of the small intestine, is missing.
What are the symptoms of congenital malformations in newborns?
The symptoms of congenital malformations vary, depending on the type and severity of the defect. In some cases, there may be no symptoms. In other cases, the baby may have difficulty feeding, breathing, or moving.
How are congenital malformations diagnosed?
Congenital malformations may be diagnosed before or after birth. In some cases, they are diagnosed during a routine prenatal ultrasound. Other times, they are not discovered until after the baby is born.
A doctor will assess any possible genetic disorders that can be passed down to your child; some genetic disorders can be detected by blood tests before pregnancy.
Prenatal tests include
- Chorionic villus sampling (CVS): This test is usually performed between the tenth and thirteenth weeks of pregnancy. A small sample of tissue from the placenta is taken and analyzed for chromosomal abnormalities.
- Amniocentesis: This test is usually performed between the fifteenth and twentieth week of pregnancy. A small sample of the amniotic fluid is taken and analyzed for chromosomal abnormalities.
- Fetal echocardiogram: This is an ultrasound of the heart that is used to assess for congenital heart defects.
What are the treatment options for congenital malformations?
The treatment of congenital anomalies varies, depending on the type and severity of the defect. In some cases, no treatment is necessary. In other cases, surgery may be needed to correct the defect. In some cases, the baby may need to be hospitalized.
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, you should talk to your doctor about ways to reduce the risk of congenital malformations.
What are some ways to reduce the risk of congenital malformations?
There are some ways you can reduce your risk of having a baby with a congenital malformation. If you are pregnant, you should:
- get vaccinated against rubella
- avoid alcohol and drugs
- avoid infections
- take folic acid supplements
- get treated for medical conditions like fever
- avoid exposure to radiation during pregnancy
- have regular prenatal visits and ultrasounds
- have prenatal testing and screening testing
You should also talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking, as some medications may increase the risk of congenital malformations.
If you have a family history of congenital malformations, you should talk to your doctor about genetic counseling.
What is the prognosis for babies with congenital malformations?
The prognosis for babies with congenital malformations varies, depending on the type and severity of the defect. In some cases, the baby will need surgery or other treatment. In other cases, the baby may have a lifelong disability. In some cases, the condition is fatal.
In conclusion, congenital abnormalities in newborns are relatively common. However, most of these conditions are not serious and can be easily managed. If you are concerned about your newborn’s health, please speak to your doctor. Thank you for reading.