Congenital Disorders in Newborns

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What Is a Congenital Disorder?

The medical condition of a child with an unfavorable diagnosis before or after birth is called a congenital disorder, also called congenital defects. The 3 most common causes of congenital disorders are due to:

  • hereditary traits
  • diseases in the prenatal life of the child
  • caused by environmental factors

They manifest as mild to life-threatening. A child born with a congenital disorder may experience a mental or physical disability or a combination of both.

How Many Types of Congenital Disorders Are There?

So far, medicine has registered about 150 congenital disorders in children, but here we will talk about the most common ones and the causes for them.

What Are the Reasons for the Most Common Congenital Disorders?

In the prenatal life, the child is at risk of various types of illnesses that can cause congenital disorder and leave a deep trace in their mental and physical development. They originate from maternal non-physiological and pathological processes in her body or from the genetic make-up of both parents.

How Are Diseases Transmitted From Mother to Fetus That Cause Congenital Disorders?

Between the mother and the fetus, there is a partition membrane – the placenta. The maternal blood components should first pass this semi-conductive membrane through the placental uvulas in order to penetrate the fetus’s bloodstream. Thus, the child receives food from the mother: oxygen, hormones, and other substances necessary for proper development. But in the same way, harmful substances, pathogenic microorganisms that cause infectious diseases can enter the fetus and cause congenital disorders.

How Can Maternal Malnutrition Cause Congenital Disorders?

It happens that the fetus does not get enough nutrients through the mother’s blood. The chronically malnourished mother cannot supply the fetus with proteins that are a basic material for all tissues. Then the baby is born scrubby, with a low body mass, or is born prematurely – before the 40th week of pregnancy. Such a baby is called preterm, it is not mature enough for life outside the mother’s body and is nonresistant to the harmful effects of the environment.

What Types of Congenital Disorders Can Be Caused by Preterm Labor?

The scrubby, premature babies often have less resistant mental apparatus. That’s why already during their first days of life they show signs of congenital disorders such as: psychic hypersensitivity, poor eating, manifest restlessness and often crying. Later in life, they often suffer from speech disorders (stammering), they have some difficulty in movement and uncontrolled physiological needs. They are prone to emotional problems, although they usually have normal intellectual abilities.

What Congenital Disorders Can Cause a Premature Birth?

It is impossible to determine with certainty how much psychological impediments are a result of the congenital disorders due to preterm, vs. the wrong treatment of the environment to the child since its first day of birth. Preterm child’s parents are particularly prone to spoiling, their behaving is too protective, allowing too much and not letting them gain independence, self-esteem and a real attitude toward life. This is a sufficient reason for the child to become neurotic, hypersensitive, and poorly adjustable, although physically completely normally developed.

How an Immune System Reaction to the Parent’s Rh-Factors Can Cause a Congenital Disorder?

Sometimes the mother does not carry the so-called Rh-factor in the erythrocytes (blood cells) a protein that is otherwise contained in the blood in 85% of people of both sexes). If the child inherits from their father’s Rh-factor then its and its mother’s blood will collide. The human organism does not tolerate alien proteins and the immune system defenses from them. Thus, while the mother is pregnant, her immune system will strive to destroy the fetal red blood cells if it contains an Rh-factor that she does not have (let’s say it is Rh-negative).

What Congenital Disorders in a Child Can Be Caused by the Incompatibility of the Parents’ Rh-Factor?

Due to the incompatibility of the Rh-factor of the parents, various congenital disorders to the baby’s body can be caused, most often the brain. The likelihood of damage is greater with an increasing number of pregnancies since with each subsequent pregnancy it increases intolerance to the blood group of the different Rh-factor of the baby. If it is the first pregnancy, it is almost certain that the child will be born healthy. In the 2nd pregnancy, 5% of children suffer, and in the 6th pregnancy, the percentage increases to 25%. Damage to children’s blood from the maternal defense system is manifested by severe jaundice in the newborn. If the child survives the disease, it is likely to remain half-witted or some of his movements will be impaired, especially noticeable on the face.

What Kind of Congenital Disorder Can Iodine Deficiency Cause?

The insufficient amount of iodine in the mother’s body causes a deficiency of this mineral in the fetus, too. Then the baby is born goitrous, the thyroid gland swells and does not work properly. The child with such congenital disorder is more or less lagging behind in intellectual development. Moreover, it often speaks loudly, and in severe cases there are deformities in the physics (cretinism).

Which pathogens most commonly cause congenital disorders?

The brain of the fetus and its sensory organs, especially vision and hearing, can also be damaged by pathogenic microorganisms, infections passed by the mother. From infectious diseases whose pathogens penetrate the placenta and infect the baby, the most common are syphilis and rubella. Maternal syphilis is more dangerous to the child if the disease is about to occur. If the infection is latent and shows no visible symptoms, it is usually not a hazard because the pathogen microorganisms of syphilis have left the blood and retreated into the internal organs.

What Congenital Disorders Are Caused by the Syphilis Pathogen?

The child sick of syphilis often dies even in the mother’s body, so she either aborts it or it is a stillborn child. If the baby survives this infection, the child may be: faint, blind, deaf, or suffering from epilepsy to various physical defects. Maternal syphilis certainly endangers the mental development of her child, so it should be cured as soon as possible.

What Congenital Disorders Are Caused by the Rubella Pathogen?

Rubella is also dangerous for the fetus if the pregnant woman is catching it during the first three months of pregnancy. For the mother, it is harmless, similar to measles. But the nervous system of the embryo – the young fetus is very sensitive to the presence of that virus in the blood. Usually, it blocks the further development of the brain, so the child is born half-witted, blind or deaf. Sometimes rubella impairs the development of the fetus’s heart, so the baby suffers from congenital heart anomalies. This aggravates its physical and mental development and thus turns it into a long-term and even lifelong handicap.

What Congenital Disorders Are Caused by Medicaments?

If the mother during pregnancy takes too many different pain killers, for example, barbituric acid (Luminal, Phenobarbitone, etc.), there is a risk that the respiratory center (the breading center) in the spinal cord of the newborn after the birth will work with a delay, so that the child can remain oxygen free for a few minutes, resulting in damage to the brain, heart, kidneys and other tissues. This is an anoxia state.

What Congenital Disorders Are Caused by X-Rays?

The tissues of the embryo and the fetus are also very sensitive to X-rays. If the mother is often exposed to X-rays during pregnancy, the fetus may also be affected. Radiation mostly damages the brain and children of these mothers are sometimes born with an unusually small brain and an incredibly small skull (microcephaly). Such children mainly lag behind in intellectual development. There is growing assurance that the psychological conditions of the pregnant women are transmitted to the child and affect the formation of its mental life. It is considered that the negative emotions of the mother, such as anxiety, fear, dissatisfaction, depression, and others, damage the mental apparatus of the fetus, which later makes the child nervous, hypersensitive and difficult to adapt to the environment. But for such an opinion there is no scientific evidence. There is no direct relationship between the nervous system of the mother and the child.

Can a Mother’s Psychological Condition Be the Cause of a Congenital Disorder?

Among the experts, the prevailing opinion is that the neurotic behavior of the young child is mainly due to its self-built nervous system, and not to the emotional difficulties that its mother had during the pregnancy. If, in fact, the mother was mentally disturbed during pregnancy, there is no likelihood that after birth her condition will be substantially altered. It is much more likely that her mental problems will be intensified because she is now concerned with new responsibilities.

What Are the Psychological Consequences for the Child if It Is Conceived Unintentionally?

If the pregnancy was unwanted – the baby will be a burden to her. If she unconsciously refused to become pregnant – then it is likely that she will not love it even when the baby is born. If she thought that the child would be a burden before giving birth – then dissatisfaction would be even greater after giving birth. Such a mother is impatient with the child, nervous, does not know how to be gentle with him, emotionally is cold towards him, always timid, irritable, feeling restless, whimsical and inconsistent. This makes the child difficult to adapt to the environment or to identify with the mother so that it begins to react in an unsettled or in restless way.

When Should Child Health Care Start?

Modern child health care begins in the prenatal period, as it is known that many diseases, defects and anomalies in children can be successfully prevented only if they are suppressed before the child is born. The same is true for children’s psycho-hygiene. The psycho-hygiene should be actively engaged in the child’s life even before its birth, in order to eliminate or at least mitigate the negative effects on the development of the nervous system while it is still in the fetus phase.

How Does Prenatal Care for a Child Prevent Congenital Disorders?

The prenatal care of children generally coincides with health care while the woman is pregnant. Therefore, at the same time it takes care of better health of the pregnant woman, and thus at the same time for the healthy development of the child’s nervous system. Above all, it is necessary for the woman during pregnancy to regularly visit a gynecologist and counseling centers for pregnant women due to controls and advice. The gynecologist who follows the pregnancy is the one who needs to determine whether the pregnant woman suffers from a disease that can endanger her pregnancy or damage the fetus. In case a severe illness such as syphilis is detected, she immediately undergoes intensive treatment. If a woman has already been ill before conceiving, and with pregnancy has not penetrated more than 3-4 months, then, the infection of the fetus can be prevented.

What Preventions Can Be Taken to Protect the Child From Congenital Disorders?

Avoiding Contact With Patients With Infectious Diseases During Pregnancy

The pregnant woman should avoid contact with patients with infectious diseases, especially children with a condition, in order to avoid another of the infectious diseases – rubella. If the woman concludes that at the beginning of pregnancy still has rubella, an abortion based on eugenic indications is recommended, so that a child with a mental defect not be born.

Consuming High Value Foods During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, it is necessary for the mother to feed with high-value foods, meals that will be rich in animal proteins, vitamins and minerals. At the genealogist, women can get directions about the content of the diet during pregnancy.

Consuming Vitamin Supplements During Pregnancy

Regular health control may reveal various defects in the mother’s body, nutritional deficiencies that may endanger the mental development of the fetus. In the case of vitamins, for example, if it is found that the maternal vitamin D level is low, it can be supplemented with a vitamin supplement – vitamin D to prevent the child to be rachitic, or to administer iodized salt in order to prevent goiters.