Information for Patients
What are birth defects?
A birth defect is a problem that happens while a baby is developing in the mother's body. Most birth defects happen during the first 3 months of pregnancy. One out of every 33 babies in the United States is born with a birth defect.
A birth defect may affect how the body looks, works, or both. Some birth defects like cleft lip or neural tube defects are structural problems that can be easy to see. Others, like heart disease, are found using special tests. Birth defects can range from mild to severe. How a birth defect affects a child's life depends mostly on which organ or body part is involved and how severe the defect is.
What causes birth defects?
For some birth defects, researchers know the cause. But for many birth defects, the exact cause is unknown. Researchers think that most birth defects are caused by a complex mix of factors, which can include:
- Genetics. One or more genes might have a change or mutation that prevents them from working properly. For example, this happens in Fragile X syndrome. With some defects, a gene or part of the gene might be missing.
- Chromosomal problems. In some cases, a chromosome or part of a chromosome might be missing. This is what happens in Turner syndrome. In other cases, such as with Down syndrome, the child has an extra chromosome.
- Exposures to medicines, chemicals, or other toxic substances. For example, alcohol misuse can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
- Infections during pregnancy. For example, infection with Zika virus during pregnancy can cause a serious defect in the brain.
- Lack of certain nutrients. Not getting enough folic acid before and during pregnancy is a key factor in causing neural tube defects.
Who is at risk of having a baby with birth defects?
Certain factors may might increase the chances of having a baby with a birth defect, such as:
- Smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking certain "street" drugs during pregnancy
- Having certain medical conditions, such as obesity or uncontrolled diabetes, before and during pregnancy
- Taking certain medicines
- Having someone in your family with a birth defect. To learn more about your risk of having a baby with a birth defect, you can talk with a genetic counselor,
- Being an older mother, typically over the age of 34 years
How are birth defects diagnosed?
Health care providers can diagnose some birth defects during pregnancy, using prenatal testing. That's why it important to get regular prenatal care.
Other birth defects may not be found until after the baby is born. Providers may find them through newborn screening. Some defects, such as club foot, are obvious right away. Other times, the health care provider may not discover a defect until later in life, when the child has symptoms.
What are the treatments for birth defects?
Children with birth defects often need special care and treatments. Because the symptoms and problems caused by birth defects vary, the treatments also vary. Possible treatments may include surgery, medicines, assistive devices, physical therapy, and speech therapy.
Often, children with birth defects need a variety of services and may need to see several specialists. The primary health care provider can coordinate the special care that the child needs.
Can birth defects be prevented?
Not all birth defects can be prevented. But there are things you can do before and during pregnancy to increase your chance of having a healthy baby:
- Start prenatal care as soon as you think you might be pregnant, and see your health care provider regularly during pregnancy
- Get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. If possible, you should start taking it at least one month before you get pregnant.
- Don't drink alcohol, smoke, or use "street" drugs
- Talk to your health care provider about any medicines you are taking or thinking about taking. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, as well as dietary or herbal supplements.
- Learn how to prevent infections during pregnancy
- If you have any medical conditions, try to get them under control before you get pregnant
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Health Problems in Pregnancy
Every pregnancy has some risk of problems. You may have problems because of a health condition you had before you got pregnant. You could also develop a condition during pregnancy. Other causes of problems during pregnancy can include being pregnant with more than one baby, a health problem in a previous pregnancy, drug use during pregnancy, or being over age 35. Any of these can affect your health, the health of your baby, or both.
If you have a chronic condition, you should talk to your health care provider about how to minimize your risk before you get pregnant. Once you are pregnant, you may need a health care team to monitor your pregnancy. Some common health problems that can complicate a pregnancy include:
- High blood pressure
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Kidney problems
- Autoimmune disorders
Other conditions that can make pregnancy risky can happen while you are pregnant - for example, gestational diabetes and Rh incompatibility. Good prenatal care can help detect and treat them.
Some discomforts, like nausea, back pain, and fatigue, are common during pregnancy. Sometimes it is hard to know what is normal. Call your health care provider if something is bothering or worrying you.
General Equivalence Map Definitions
The ICD-9 and ICD-10 GEMs are used to facilitate linking between the diagnosis codes in ICD-9-CM and the new ICD-10-CM code set. The GEMs are the raw material from which providers, health information vendors and payers can derive specific applied mappings to meet their needs.
- Approximate Flag - The approximate flag is on, indicating that the relationship between the code in the source system and the code in the target system is an approximate equivalent.
- No Map Flag - The no map flag indicates that a code in the source system is not linked to any code in the target system.
- Combination Flag - The combination flag indicates that more than one code in the target system is required to satisfy the full equivalent meaning of a code in the source system.