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What You Need to Know About Birth Defects

Most babies are born without birth defects, but expectant moms still worry. Here's how unlikely some birth defects are, as well as when they're usually diagnosed. Knowing beforehand that your baby may need a medical jump-start can help you meet that challenge.

CONGENITAL HEART DEFECTS (1 in 125 births).

  • Diagnosis Occasionally detected during ultrasound in the second trimester and confirmed with fetal echocardiography (an ultrasound of the fetal heart). Most problems are diagnosed at birth.
  • Treatment Except for potentially fatal defects, many need only monitoring, whereas others can be corrected with surgery during infancy.

PYLORIC STENOSIS, obstruction in the stomach's lower opening that prevents food from moving into the small intestine (1 in 250 births).

  • Diagnosis Usually discovered by age 2 months, when symptoms--projectile vomiting, failure to gain weight--appear; or at an early physical exam.
  • Treatment Surgery on the affected muscles can correct the condition.

CONGENITAL HIP DISLOCATION (1 in 400 births).

  • Diagnosis Detected at birth or during infancy at a physical exam.
  • Treatment A diapering technique that keeps legs slightly apart to stabilize hip joints is often all that's needed; may require a harness (worn for several weeks or months) or surgery.

More birth defects and their treatments ahead

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