Birth Defects in Babies | Emma's Diary India

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My baby's not perfect


Although it can be heartbreaking for the parents, realistically it shouldn't be surprising that not all babies are born completely perfect in every way.

Here we look at some of the medical conditions that can affect a baby and we advise where to go to for more information, help and support.

Physically handicapped

Parents should seek advice and practical support from the hospital or maternity home for everyday hands-on caring, as well as the medical, emotional and financial issues of coping with a handicapped baby.

Your doctor and paediatric team will also be able to give you advice and support or guide you to specialist organisations that can help parents with special need babies.

Down's syndrome

Down's syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects a baby's normal physical development. All affected babies will have a degree of learning difficulty and delay in development but this can vary from mild to severe.

Around 10% of babies with Down's also have additional medical problems

The Down Syndrome Federation of India provides information and support for people with the condition.

Spina bifida

Spina bifida is a birth defect that involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord or its coverings which can cause paralysis, bowel and bladder incontinence and loss of skin sensation.

It occurs at the end of the first month of pregnancy when the two sides of the spine fail to close properly, leaving an open area. If a baby is born with spina bifida it will be seen by a paediatric neurosurgeon shortly after birth and it will be decided if the defect in the spine should be surgically closed. If surgery is required it will usually take place within 48 hours of birth.

Advancements in the treatment of spina bifida mean there is now a more positive outlook for the condition.

You could visit Indian Spina Bifida Association for advice and support on the condition.

Cleft palate

Cleft lips and/or palates are a common birth defect and occur when separate areas of the face fail to join properly as a baby is developing in the womb causing a separation or split in either the upper lip or roof of the mouth (palate) or sometimes in both.

It can be corrected using surgery and most children are left with no or little sign of any disfigurement and go on to have normal speech.

The Indian Society of Cleftlip, Palate and Craniofacial Anomalies is an organisation that can provide support for all people with and affected by cleft lip and/or palate.

Cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis (CF) affects the internal organs, in particular the lungs and digestive system, causing them to become clogged with thick mucus.

Babies can have bowel problems and it causes frequent chest infections, wheezing and shortness of breath, as well as poor weight gain.

The condition is the result of a faulty gene that controls the movement of salt and water in and out of cells in the body.

To develop CF, a baby has to inherit the faulty gene from both parents. It is estimated that 1 in every 2,500 babies born in the UK will be born with CF and there are currently more than 10,000 people living with this condition in the UK.

Although there is no cure for CF, there are treatments that can make the condition easier to live with.

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust is a British charity where you can get further information about this condition.

Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a general term that covers a number of conditions where the brain doesn't work normally, resulting in problems with movement, posture and coordination.

Each person is affected in a different way, some more severely than others. The damage to the brain usually occurs before, during or soon after birth. It's estimated that around 1 in 400 people in the UK is affected by cerebral palsy.

There is no cure, but there is a range of treatments that can help to relieve the symptoms and improve the quality of life.

For information and support, visit Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy.


Autism belongs to a collection of developmental disorders known as autistic spectrum disorders that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Around 1 in 100 people in the UK live with autism. Often, there are no outward signs of disability so it may not be diagnosed until much later in life.

Although it is difficult to detect in babies, signs of the condition may start to appear in the first year or so.

A baby may have problems with communication, socialisation or show signs of unusual behaviour, such as not responding to simple game playing.

If autism is suspected the child will be assessed by a child development team. If autism is then diagnosed the family and child will be given support tailored to their needs.

For information and support, visit National Centre for Autism India


Birthmarks are common and many disappear within the first few years of life. Treatment is often an unnecessary risk and it is usually better to leave them.

There are several types of birthmark. Parents of a newborn baby with a birthmark or any type of disfigurement should talk to their healthcare professionals.


A squint is when both eyes don't look in exactly the same direction. It affects 2-3% of children and it is caused by difficulty in focusing, for example if your baby is short or long-sighted. It is more common in premature babies or if there is a history of squints or visual problems in the family.

Squints are common in babies up to the age of two months and usually come and go, but where the squint persists after this age it is important for it be investigated. Your child may be referred to an orthoptist who will assess the squint and may then be referred to an ophthalmologist at the hospital. Treatment can involve glasses to improve vision, the use of an eye patch, exercises, surgery or injections.

Undescended testicles

Undescended testicles are a common childhood condition where a boy is born without having one or both testicles in his scrotum.

Testicles are usually in place by the eighth month of pregnancy, however, in some cases, one or both testicles sometimes do not move into the scrotum by the time the baby is born.

This condition is painless and does not pose any immediate health problems. Usually, the testicle will descend during the first six months after birth.

If this is not the case, treatment is recommended as if left untreated it can lead to fertility problems and a very small but increased risk of testicular cancer in later life.

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