10 Of The Most Common Birth Defects In America

By Victoria Simpson on May 5 2020 in Society

World Down Syndrome Day 2015- Here I Am Photo Exhibition Upper Courtyard Dublin Castle. Image credit: William Murphy/Flickr.com
World Down Syndrome Day 2015- Here I Am Photo Exhibition Upper Courtyard Dublin Castle. Image credit: William Murphy/Flickr.com
  • Most common birth defects are now treatable if caught early on.
  • A club foot is the most common birth defect in the US.
  • Birth defects are the second top cause of infant death in the US after prematurity.

Birth defects are present in many children in the US. According to the US Department, congenital anomalies occur in about 3% of live births in the country. Sadly, in addition to prematurity, which comes first as a cause of death, birth defects are the second leading cause of infant deaths in the US. 

The good news is that most of them are treatable with modern medicine and surgery. 

From imperfections that affect the stomach and intestines to problems children are born with that affect their faces, chromosomes and muscles, birth defects can present an ever-present challenge for doctors, parents and children alike. Here are ten of the most common ones found in the US.

10. Club Foot- 1 in 593 births

A child with club feet. Image credit: Brachet Youri/Wikimedia.org
A child with club feet. Image credit: Brachet Youri/Wikimedia.org

This birth defect can appear bad at the outset, but thankfully,  it is something that can often be corrected with surgery. Having a club foot means that your foot is twisted, and it has not formed properly. Most often in North America, this condition is treated soon after birth, as a club foot can cause you to walk in the wrong way, and it can make it more difficult for you to do.

9. Down Syndrome- 1 in 707 births

An eight-year-old boy with Down syndrome. Image credit: Vanellus Foto/Wikimedia.org
An eight-year-old boy with Down syndrome. Image credit: Vanellus Foto/Wikimedia.org

Down syndrome results when a person has an extra chromosome, and it is also often called “Trisomy 21.” People with Down syndrome generally have a lower IQ than normal, and they can display some signature physical features. These can include small hands and feet, a flattened nose, almond-shaped eyes, and a single line across the palm of the hand, to name a few. Chris Burke is an actor with down syndrome made famous for portraying Corky in the TV series Life Goes On.

8. Pulmonary Valve Atresia and Stenosis- 1 in 1,052 births

This lengthy-sounding birth defect presents a problem with the heart, and results in a valve in the heart that has not formed in the right way. Your pulmonary valve regulates the flow of your blood from the right ventricle in your heart to your lungs. When you are born with pulmonary valve atresia, it means you either do not have an opening where the valve should be, or that it is too narrow to allow enough blood to pass through. 

Children born with this defect in the US will most often have surgery to correct it, and are given medication to help their heart function properly as an infant.

7. Cleft lip with cleft palate- 1 in 1,563 births

A 10-month old girl with cleft lip surgery done to correct the deformity. Image credit: King97tut/Public domain
A 10-month old girl with cleft lip surgery done to correct the deformity. Image credit: King97tut/Public domain

People born with a cleft lip have a slit in their top lip. This prevents them from closing their mouth completely, and it can result in difficulties eating, swallowing, and speaking. 

A cleft palate happens when you are born with an opening in the roof of your mouth. 

Some infants are born with both of these defects at once. Thankfully, doctors can perform surgeries to fix the condition, and they now do it so well that you may not notice the birth defect was ever there at all.

6. Coarctation of the Aorta- 1 in 1,795 births

Coarctation of the Aorta. Image credit: BruceBlaus/Wikimedia.org
Coarctation of the Aorta. Image credit: BruceBlaus/Wikimedia.org

Your aorta is that very important. It is that large and necessary blood vessel that delivers oxygen-rich blood to your body, sending it away from your heart. When it has experienced coarctation, it has been made too narrow. This is hard on you as it makes your heart pump extra hard in order to get the necessary amount of blood through it, for your body to use.

Some babies who are born with this heart defect are identified early on but not all are.

It is a fact that you can reach adulthood with this birth defect and not even know you have it. Symptoms of coarctation of the aorta in babies can include heavy sweating, pale skin, and trouble breathing. The scary thing is that if you leave this defect untreated, it can kill you.

5. Atrioventricular Septal Defect (AVSD)- 1 in 1,859 births

If you are born with AVSD, you are in for some bad news. This condition means you have some holes in your heart that you really do not want. AVSD results in holes being present between the right and left chambers of your heart. It can also mean that your heart valves have not formed in the right way. The result is that your blood flows to where it should not, and this can make your heart and lungs work harder than they would normally. If left undetected and untreated, AVSD can result in heart failure.

4. Limb defects - 1 in 1,943 births

Photograph of right forearm affected by birth defect Amelia. Image credit: Onearmedbandit86/Wikimedia.org
Photograph of right forearm affected by birth defect Amelia. Image credit: Onearmedbandit86/Wikimedia.org

Your arms and legs are your limbs, and if you are born with a limb defect it means that one or more of your arms or legs did not form properly. Sometimes the entire limb is missing, or you may have extra fingers and toes. You may also have a limb that is smaller than normal, or one that does not separate properly from your body. 

Surgery, the use of artificial limbs, and therapy treatments like attending physiotherapy sessions can often provide a solution to the problem, and each case is different, with a different solution.

3. Gastroschisis- 1 in 1,953 births

Nature is full of all sorts of abnormalities. If you are born with gastroschisis it means that your intestines are outside of your body instead of being inside. Not very helpful! The intestines do this by exiting your body via a hole in your belly button. 

The overwhelming majority of people born with this problem now live to tell the tale. Surgery is obviously used to correct the problem.

2. Tetralogy of Fallot- 1 in 2,171 births

This impressive sounding birth defect is actually a combination of four birth defects. It takes place in the heart and involves a thickening of the right ventricular wall, an aorta in the wrong place, pulmonary valve stenosis, and ventricular septal defect (VSD). Wow. Amazingly, some people who are born with this heart defect do not discover it until they are adults, but most are diagnosed when they are babies. Symptoms in infants can include blue-looking skin, a result of too little oxygen in the blood. 

People can live normal lives with this birth defect, and may have to take medication to help control the functioning of their heart, and watch what kind of exercise they do, so as to not strain themselves too much.

1. Rectal and large intestinal atresia/stenosis-1 in 2,242 births

Patients born with this rare birth defect have problems with their bowels. They can be missing altogether or poorly formed, with defects in the anus and rectum adding to the problem. This birth defect can be hereditary, but other factors can contribute to it occuring as well.

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