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What are the causes of Congenital Malformations (Birth defects)? antibiotics to avoid during pregnancy

Updated on January 15, 2012
Egg yolk has lots of folic acid, lack of which can cause Spina Bifida.
Egg yolk has lots of folic acid, lack of which can cause Spina Bifida.

Congenital malformations are a set of different physical abnormalities that are present at birth. Minor malformations are seen in about 3% of all children born. Only 1% of all children born have major malformations. Although the situation varies with each case, subsequent pregnancy after a child with physical defect, has a great risk than that faced by the general population. Hence birth of a child with serious malformation should trigger genetic evaluation to ascertain recurrent risk.

Types of Birth Defects

Two types of birth defects are structural and developmental.


1. cleft lip or cleft palate

2. heart defects( such as missing or misshaped valves)

3. abnormal limbs( such as a club foot)

4. neural tube defects (such as spina bifida)

5. problems related to the growth and development of the brain and spinal cord.


1. Nervous system or brain problems ( eg. Autism, Down syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, and Fragile X syndrome)

2. Sensory problems (eg. blindness, cataracts, deafness)

3. Metabolic disorders (eg. phenylketonuria (PKU) and hypothyroidism)

4. Degenerative disorders (eg., X-linkedadrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD), Rett syndrome, muscular dystrophy, and lysosomal disorders)


1. Lack of Nutrients around the time of conception: When a baby grows in the womb, it need nutrients. When the mother does not get proper nutrients several structural malformations can happen to new born children. Lack of nutrients causes cell division (this is how we humans develop) errors and result in large scale structural and functional differences in the organism's final shape. One well known example is lack of folic acid (present in leafy vegetables,egg yolk,sunflower seeds and liver products) in the diet of a mother can cause cellular neural tube deformities that result in Spina Bifida.

2. Antibiotics around the time of conception: Few antibiotics like sulfonamides and nitrofurantoin are associated with major birth defects

3. Petroleum oil and distillates can cause birth defects

4. Genetic reasons: when one or more genes doesn't work properly or part of a gene is missing. 

Finally, I have included a table at the end of this article about the incidence of common birth defects in general population

Birth Defect
Incidence per 1000 births
Spina bifida
Heart defects
Cleft lip
Pyloric stenosis


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    • chuckandus6 profile image

      Nichol marie 

      7 years ago from The Country-Side

      A mom of 4 i was worried every time about birth defects.

      my children never had any birth defects. I think every mom worries about this too much.My tip to Moms out there is not read too much on this subject unless your doctor has given you a reason to.

      Great article though and very well written


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