Birth Defects

Birth defects facts*

*Birth defects facts by

  • Birth defects are structural or functional abnormalities present at birth that cause physical or mental disability. They are the leading cause of death for infants during the first year of life.
  • Birth defects may be caused by genetic problems, problems with chromosomes, or environmental factors.
  • Structural birth defects are related to a problem with body parts such as cleft lip or cleft palate, heart defects such as missing or misshaped valves, abnormal limbs such as a club foot, and neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
  • Functional birth defects are related to a problem with how a body part or body system works. These problems often lead to developmental disabilities and can include things such as nervous system or brain problems, sensory problems, metabolic disorders, and degenerative disorders.
  • Treatments for birth defects vary by disorder.

What are birth defects?

Birth defects are structural or functional abnormalities present at birth that cause physical or mental disability. Some may be fatal.

Researchers have identified thousands of different birth defects. Currently, birth defects are the leading cause of death for infants during the first year of life.

What causes birth defects?

Birth defects have a variety of causes, such as:

Genetic problems caused when one or more genes doesn't work properly or part of a gene is missing

Problems with chromosomes, such as having an extra chromosome or missing part of a chromosome

Environmental factors that a woman is exposed to during pregnancy, such as rubella or German measles while pregnant, or using drugs or alcohol during pregnancy.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/15/2014

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Birth Defects - Personal Experience Question: What type of birth defect did you or your child have? Please share your experience.
Birth Defects - Treatments Question: Depending on the disorder, what was the treatment for your or your child's birth defect?

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