Dr. Prashant Jain

Director
Department of Pediatric Surgery and Pediatric Urology
BLK Super Specialty Hospital, New Delhi

About 8 million babies worldwide are born each year with serious birth defects (structural, functional and metabolic). About 3 lakhs newborn (1 in 10) and about 5 lakhs children under 5 die every year with maximum deaths reported in southeast Asia. In India birth defects prevalence varies from 61 to 69.9/1000 live births.The high incidence of birth defects in India is mainly attributed to high fertility, unplanned pregnancies, poor antenatal care, poor maternal nutrition, consanguineous marriages etc. Furthermore, the majority of new-borns with a serious congenital disorder that survives, face a lifetime of severe disability. Birth defects affect all races and ethnicities and all nations, but the cost is particularly high in low-income countries. In many countries, birth defects are a leading cause of death among infants and young children.. Those who survive may suffer lifelong physical or mental disabilities. 70% of these birth defects are preventable but for that these children need access to appropriate treatment and care to reach their full potential in life.

World birth defects day started in 2015 by the world health organization is celebrated every year on March 3 to raise awareness for congenital disorders and has now become a movement. The aim is to prevent, increase the care and awareness about these preventable defects and associated disabilities.

Pregnancy has a 3-5% risk of the baby having a congenital defect. The common congenital defects/anomalies include cardiac anomaly, urogenital anomalies, spina -bifida, Downs syndrome etc. An organized approach and dedicated team can help in diagnosing these anomalies in time and can offer a management protocol to parents for future treatment and hence improving the quality of life.

Various urogenital problems like hydronephrosis, posterior urethral valve, bladder exstrophy, etc can be detected during antenatal scans. These problems require a systematic approach beginning from the antenatal period and continuing during the postnatal period. Awareness and timely management can prevent the various associated morbidities due to organ damage. Adequate antenatal counseling about these birth defects helps in allaying parental anxiety and prepare them for the future management of their child.

Congenital disorders are also known to be associated with stillbirth and prematurity. Several hundred thousand babies are born with congenital disorders due to poor care in pregnancy, such as micronutrient deficiencies, infections, and alcohol exposure. So the interventions not only can avoid preventable maternal morbidity and mortality but also child morbidity and mortality.

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