Birth defects may involve many different organs including the brain, heart, lungs, liver, bones, and intestinal tract. These defects can occur for many reasons including inherited (genetic) conditions, toxic exposure of the fetus (for example, to alcohol), birth injury and, in many cases, for unknown reasons. All parents are at risk of having a baby with a birth defect, regardless of age, race, income or residence.
In the US (and many other developed nations), 2% to 3% of babies are born with a medically significant birth defect. The infants with birth defects include many with heart defects, cleft lip or palate, Down syndrome, spina bifida, and limb defects.
How a particular birth defect affects a child varies and depends greatly on the severity of the defect and whether or not other medical problems are present. The parents of children with birth defects are encouraged to discuss the specifics of the effects of the defect on their child's current condition with their child's doctor.