On 3 March 2022 each year, the Department of Health join the world to raise awareness on Birth Defects that are known as congenital disorders, congenital anomalies or congenital conditions. There are many types of birth defects and this day recognizes our collective voice in raising awareness for all birth defects, including Agent Orange birth defects.
An estimated 240 000 newborns die worldwide within 28 days of birth every year due to birth defects. Birth defects cause a further 170 000 deaths of children between the ages of 1 month and 5 years.
The main causes of birth defects are mainly:
- Genetics. One or more genes might have a change or mutation that prevents them from working properly.
- Chromosomal problems.
- Exposures to medicines, chemicals, or other toxic substances.
- Infections during pregnancy.
- Lack of certain nutrients.
Birth defects may result in disabilities that may be physical, intellectual, or developmental. The disabilities can range from mild to severe. The most common severe birth defects are:
- Heart defects
- Neural tube defects and Down syndrome.
Rare birth defects include: to mention a few
- Smith Lemli Opitz syndrome.
- Spinal muscular atrophy.
- Tuberous sclerosis.
- Turner syndrome.
- X-linked lymphoproliferative syndrome (Duncan disease)
Birth defects are divided into two main types: structural disorders in which problems are seen with the shape of a body part and functional disorders in which problems exist with how a body part works.
Structural defects can include but not limited to Malformed fingers, hands or arms, malformed toes, feet or legs, Undescended testicles, Low set ears, Absent or underdeveloped lung, Absent or malformed ears.
Some birth defects can be prevented. Vaccination, adequate intake of folic acid or iodine through fortification of staple foods or supplementation, and adequate care before and during a pregnancy are examples of prevention methods.
“As some of the causes of birth defects are preventable as the department of Health we urge all pregnant women to take full advantage of the pre-natal services offered by our health institutions to ensure that they deliver heathy babies” said MEC Madoda Sambatha
Recent statistics show that as many as one in 15 babies in South Africa are affected by a birth defects, with up to 70% of birth defects being treatable or preventable.
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