It can be a frightening and overwhelming experience to learn your baby is ill or has been diagnosed with a medical condition. There are likely to be doctor’s visits, tests, and treatments, and it’s normal to have questions regarding how the illness or condition arose. New babies can suffer from two different types of medical problems: birth injuries and birth defects. While those terms are sometimes used interchangeably, it’s crucial to understand the difference between the two.
Understanding Birth Defects
A birth defect is a disease or medical condition that develops while a child is still growing in the womb. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), birth defects are common. Every four and a half minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect in the United States. That means that nearly 120,000, or one in 33, babies are affected by this issue every year.
These conditions are structural changes that can affect how any part of the body looks, works, or both. The severity depends greatly on the defect. In some cases, quality of life or lifespan can be impacted. Most birth defects are found within the first year of life or before birth. While some may be easy to see, like a physical deformity, special tests are needed to detect heart defects or hearing loss, for example.
Most birth defects form in the first three months of pregnancy; however, some can occur in the latter six months. In many cases, a birth defect is completely outside you or your doctor’s control.