A fetal anomaly is also known as “birth defect” or “congenital anomaly” and is defined as a physical or functional abnormality of the fetus that is apparent at birth or that develops during the first weeks of life. It can affect any part of the body and can be either mild or severe. The causes of fetal anomalies are diverse and some are still unknown. Some of the known causes are genetic abnormalities, exposure to teratogens during pregnancy, and problems with the placenta or umbilical cord. Some anomalies are caused by exposure to certain environmental factors such as drugs, alcohol, viruses, or chemicals.
Types of Anomalies
There are many different types of fetal anomalies. Some common examples include:
- Chromosomal abnormalities: These occur when there is an abnormal number of chromosomes or when there are structural changes in the chromosomes. Chromosomal abnormalities are the most common type of fetal anomaly, accounting for about 50% of all cases.
- Congenital heart defects: These occur when there are abnormalities in the structure of the heart or great vessels. Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, affecting about 1% of all births.
- Gastrointestinal defects: These occur when there are abnormalities in the structure of the gastrointestinal tract. Gastrointestinal defects are relatively common, affecting about 4% of all births.
- Skeletal dysplasias: These occur when there are abnormalities in the size, shape, or structure of the bones. Skeletal dysplasias are relatively rare, affecting about 1 in
- Neural tube defects: These occur when there is an abnormal opening in the neural tube. Neural tube defects are relatively common, affecting about 1 in 1000 births.
- Cleft lip and cleft palate: These occur when there is an abnormality in the formation of the lip or palate. Cleft lip and cleft palate are relatively common, affecting about 1 in 700 births.
Risk Factors and Complications Associated with Fetal Anomaly
There are many risk factors for developing a fetal anomaly. These include:
- Having a family history of birth defects
- Being pregnant with more than one baby (twins, triplets, etc.)
- Being over the age of 35 years old
- Having certain medical conditions such as diabetes mellitus or phenylketonuria (PKU)
- Taking certain medications during pregnancy such as isotretinoin (Accutane)
- Being exposed to certain environmental factors such as tobacco smoke, alcohol, drugs, viruses, or chemicals during pregnancy
Complications associated with fetal anomalies can include premature birth, low birth weight, stillbirth, and neonatal death.
This image shows how often the term ‘Fetal Anomaly’ is used in relation to other, similar birth terms:
Other Related Terms
The following are terms related to Fetal Anomaly that you may be interested in:
Teratogen: A teratogen is defined as any agent that can cause birth defects. These include drugs, alcohol, viruses, chemicals, and radiation.
Placenta: The placenta is an organ that develops during pregnancy and provides nutrients and oxygen to the fetus.
Umbilical Cord: The umbilical cord is a structure that connects the fetus to the placenta and provides nutrients and oxygen to the fetus.
Most pregnant women will have at least one ultrasound scan during their pregnancy. This scan can often detect fetal anomalies. If a fetal anomaly is detected, further testing may be needed to confirm the diagnosis and to determine the best course of treatment.
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