Brain and Nervous System Birth Defects

There are two main types of birth defect; these are developmental or functional defects and structural defects. Developmental and functional birth defects often affect the nervous system and the brain.

What causes birth defects of the brain and nervous system?

Birth defects that affect the brain or nervous system can be passed on by the parents, caused by problems relating to the number or structure of the chromosomes or caused by exposure to harmful chemicals or environments during pregnancy. Research suggests that exposure to smoke and chemicals like those contained in pesticides, infections (including Rubella and toxoplasmosis), alcohol or illegal drugs can contribute to birth defects.

Effects of birth defects

Birth defects which affect the brain and the nervous system can contribute to a range of different health problems, as well as problems with growth and development. Common effects of these types of defects include:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Problems with behaviour
  • Difficulties with speech and language
  • Lower mental capacity or mental retardation
  • Slow development
  • Problems with mobility
  • Problems with communication
  • A lack of social skills

Some people may have very severe health problems, while others may only suffer mild symptoms.

Examples of nervous system and brain defects

Common examples of birth defects that affect the brain and nervous system include:

  • Mental retardation
  • Learning disabilities
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Autism Spectrum disorders
  • Fragile X syndrome
  • Prader-Willi syndrome

Treating birth defects

The treatment for people with birth defects depends on the nature of the individual case; everyone is different and some people may be affected much more severely than others. Some birth defects can be detected during pregnancy and early treatment may be possible before the condition develops; other defects are not treatable and treatment includes ways to increased independence and promote good general health through managing the symptoms, rather than being able to cure the condition.

People with birth defects are usually given a team of professional staff who will help to manage all aspects of their care, from medical treatment to speech therapy and physiotherapy. The care team will focus on several different areas to manage pain effectively and encourage independence.

Brain and Nervous System Birth Defects Problems

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