Congenital Anomalies


The WHO estimates that 303,000 new-borns die within four weeks of birth every year due to
congenital anomalies. Congenital anomalies refer to abnormal traits that exist in a child from birth. congenital heart defect, neural tube defects and cleft lip/palate. They can lead to a long-term disability which can affect the individual, families and the society at large.


These anomalies include heart defect, down syndrome, neural tube defects and cleft lip/palate. They can lead to a long-term disability which can affect the individual, families and the society at large.

Congenital anomalies may be due to environmental factors or genetic factors. The environmental factors include exposure of the pregnant mother to some drugs, radiation, alcohol, pesticides, some chemicals. Some infections (such as rubella, syphilis, toxoplasmosis etcetera) and maternal nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy may also increase the risk of congenital anomalies. Genetic factors include chromosomal defects, mutant genes (change in genes), dominant and recessive inheritance.
Vital organs such as the brain and heart begin to develop at early stage of pregnancy. Prevention of congenital anomalies has to start before a woman conceives as she may not know of her pregnancy status till after a few weeks. Therefore, adolescent girls and women of child-bearing age are expected to:

     Ø  Desist from smoking.
     Ø  Reduce exposure to harsh chemicals and radiations.
     Ø  Eat healthy foods that contain vitamin and minerals especially folic acid.
     Ø  Avoid the use of alcohol.
     Ø  Ensure they are vaccinated against rubella.
     Ø  Avoid self-medication and abuse of drugs.
     Ø  Get antenatal care when pregnant.
     Ø  Avoid eating raw foods such as eggs and meat that could expose them to toxoplasmosis.

By Ifeyinwa Ugo-Amadi
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