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Birth Defects In Babies

Birth Defects In Babies
Birth defects in babies
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The presence of any abnormality in a new born baby is a source of anxiety, confusion and even fear in a family. Many are overwhelmed by the range of challenges they face and are unwilling or unable to cope with the challenges of taking care of the little one.

In our society, many families go to extra lengths to conceal the problem from neighbours and the extended family. They refuse to believe that what has happened is neither their fault nor that of their family. It is also not their fault that these abnormal events have happened.

Some of these defects are truly scary. They involve abnormalities developing in practically any part of the body, from the head and neck region to the lower limbs. These include such abnormal events like an abnormally large head or an abnormally small one. Sometimes there is no head at all. Yet, some babies may live for several days with such severe problems before succumbing, after the parents have run from one hospital to another seeking a solution. They also spend significant sums of money in the process.

At other times, babies are seen without an eye or with two eyes of grossly different sizes or may actually have been born blind. Sometimes, the ears are absent on one side or very small on the other side. Sometimes, the nostrils are blocked a few centimetres from the tip of the nose so that the baby suffers severe inability to breathe from the very first minute on earth.

Some babies are born with an absent gullet, or oesophagus so that there is no connection between the mouth and stomach. To worsen matters, there may even develop an abnormal linkage between the incomplete oesophagus and lungs that further aggravates the problem.

These are challenging problems to treat and there can be no rush to start any treatment until the full extent of the problem is ascertained.

Some others are born with poorly developed lungs or with all forms of abnormalities in the heart, ranging from abnormally formed heart chambers to abnormal communication channels between the various chambers of the heart, often described as holes in the heart. Sometimes, the important breathing organ, the diaphragm, is abnormally formed such that a hernia can develop within it, thus leading to breathing difficulties from very early in life. There may be severe coughing as well and an inability to feed. For many parents who were overjoyed at the arrival of an addition to the family, these developments quickly turn it all to anguish.

In similar fashion, the intestines may be incomplete in formation, thus leading to a blockage at any of its important parts, starting as high up as the duodenum, after the stomach region. Sometimes, the obstruction in this important tube occurs further down but the effect is the same; the child is not able to feed and there is a history of vomiting right from the very first few meals. The solution is not to keep trying to get some feed down but to go to the hospital even if the baby was born at a traditional birth attendant’s place or church clinic. Once at the hospital, the proper examination is done to confirm what the problem could be and the appropriate treatment process is begun.

Commonly, the abdomen, which many people usually refer to as the stomach, is not formed at all or is only partly formed. When these happen, the intestines may be found outside the body either in a sac which one can see through or it is sometimes fully exposed. At other times, one can see the liver because of such a defect.

The proper thing to do in such situations is to listen to your doctors. Do not transfer your aggression to them or the nurses in the mistaken belief that they are not acting fast enough because the treatment for these conditions requires detailed planning. Often, results are only obtained after several treatments.

Sometimes also, failure occurs despite the best efforts. In other situations, the bladder may be exposed so that one can even see urine as it squirts into the open walls from the tiny ureters near its base. Reconstruction of these defects is often time-consuming and imperfect. It is impossible to achieve the standards that God intended but in most cases, some function can be restored.

In other babies, there may be an absent anus or it may be born with both male and female sex organs. These are often very distressing for the parents but they should be patient in order to get the best available advice. Babies born without an anus can often be made almost normal and those born with uncertain genders can also be treated with good results. Some babies do not have the opening of their urethra at the appropriate position. It may develop at the top of the shaft of the penis or more commonly at the under-surface of the penis. With a lot of work, careful planning and the cooperation of the parents, a lot of progress can be made in the treatment of these conditions. There are capable hands in many parts of Nigeria who specialise in the treatment of these conditions and the results obtained are comparable to what is seen elsewhere in the world.

Surely, it is not a perfect situation yet but judging from the sheer number of these patients and the small number of trained manpower available to treat them, a lot more can still be achieved. The solution cannot be found in abandoning these unfortunate babies in situations guaranteed to bring about their early death, which some families do. Also, babies are born with incomplete arms or legs or some important bones in these limbs may be missing. Many of these anomalies are compatible with life. The families only need to ask all the questions they can while in the hospital so that they are well informed about how to provide the needed care for these children.

In a topic such as this one, it is impossible to cover all the known defects seen in children. What has been done here is write a little about the most common of these problems and the general supportive roles we ought to play to bring about a good outcome. It is also important to emphasise that their occurrence is not a death sentence, and often these days, help can be found.

Source: Punch

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