National Birth Defects Awareness Month: 10 Most Common Birth Defects

However, the defects could be treated through surgery, but some children born with them live with the defects for life.

Tavishi Dogra
Written by: Tavishi DograUpdated at: Jan 31, 2020 12:57 IST
National Birth Defects Awareness Month: 10 Most Common Birth Defects

A birth defect is a health problem or a physical problem that is present when a baby is born. It usually occurs when a baby is developing in the mother’s womb. Birth defects can be of two types, which are either structural or functional. Structural birth defects are problems related to the structure of the body parts like cleft lips or abnormal limbs. Functional defects are related to how a body part functions like down syndrome or blindness and deafness.

Here is a list of ten most common birth defects that could occur in a child

Cleft lip

A cleft lip is a birth defect that occurs when a baby’s mouth does not form properly during pregnancy. The cause of this is unknown. However, it is thought to occur due to what the mother consumes during pregnancy.



This is a birth defect where the bones in a baby’s skull join before the baby’s brain is fully formed. As the baby grows, it becomes worse. It leads to the skull having an abnormal shape, which can then lead to the build of pressure inside the skull.

Down syndrome

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that takes place when there is abnormal cell division resulting in an extra copy of chromosome 21. It causes intellectual disabilities and developmental delays.

Atrial septal defect


This is a heart defect where there is a hole in the wall that divides the upper chambers of the heart. The hole may close on its own or might require surgery. It is said to be caused due to changes in genes or chromosomes.

Oesophageal Atresia

This defect is associated with the oesophagus. When a baby has this defect, the tube has two separate sections that do not connect. This results in breathing difficulty and also the inability to pass food from mouth to stomach. The cause of this again is said to be an abnormality in the genes.

Also Read: Is It Safe To Make Babies Wear Diapers Daily? 

Diaphragmatic hernia

When a baby is born with this defect s/he has a hole in the diaphragm. As a result, organs from the abdomen could move up to the chest through this hole causing a hernia. It can stop the lungs from developing completely resulting in difficulty in breathing.


Anencephaly is a birth defect where the baby is born without parts of the brain. This can be caused by a combination of genes or other factors such as the environment of the mother during pregnancy and what she consumes.

Upper and lower limb reduction


This is when either a part of an entire arm or leg of the foetus fails to form completely. Behaviour and exposure during pregnancy could be the cause of this defect.

Clubfoot syndrome

Here the baby's foot is twisted out of shape or out of proportion. The tissues connecting the muscles to the bones are shorter than usual.

Fragile X syndrome

It is a genetic syndrome that causes development problems like learning disability and cognitive impairment. This disorder affects men more than women. It results in delayed development of speech and language and can cause intellectual disability. Mutations in a gene called FMR1 causes this problem.

Note: Most of these defects are caused by an abnormality in genes or due to the exposure during pregnancy.

(Inputs from Dr Raghuram Mallaiah, Head, Neonatology, Fortis La Femme, New Delhi)

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