Birth Defects


What are birth defects?

A birth defect is a health condition present at birth (congenital) that can affect any part of the baby's body.
Some birth defects can be treated with medicine or surgery.
Many birth defects can be identified through screening (testing) during pregnancy. Some of the screening tests include:

  • Ultrasound (a device that uses sound waves to look at organs and structures inside the body)
  • Blood tests for the mother
  • Blood sample taken from the umbilical cord of the baby
  • Fetal echocardiogram (a special ultrasound of the unborn baby’s heart)

What causes a birth defect?

Most birth defects have unknown causes. Some defects have been linked to causes such as genetic disorder, which can be caused by abnormal genes or DNA. These include:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Down syndrome
  • Thalassemia

Other causes of birth defects include:

  • Uncontrolled diabetes before and during pregnancy
  • Lack of vitamins or folic acid during pregnancy
  • Lack of iodine in your diet before and during your pregnancy

Risk Factors

  • Women 35 years or older
  • Men 50 years or older
  • Women with history of diabetes
  • Women with history of epilepsy
  • Parents who have a history of a birth defect
  • Parents who have had a previous baby with a birth defect
  • Parents who have a family history of a birth defect
  • Consanguinity (Parents who are blood related)
  • IVF pregnancy
  • Pregnant with (twins/triplets)

If it is found that your baby may have a birth defect, your doctor will discuss this with you and help you to find the right resources to support you, your baby and your family.