Published November 24, 2007 by
We all want our babies to be healthy, to grow and develop to their full potential as children and adults. But sometimes a baby is not healthy, no matter how much organic fruit you eat, or how much exercise you do.
Some children are born with genetic defects that affect one or more of the body’s systems, such as muscular dystrophy [the progressive wasting away of muscles], mental disorders, and color blindness. Down syndrome is a genetic birth defect that often involves many of the body’s systems, leading to physical problems and mental retardation.
Other children are born with genetic body chemistry disorders, such as phenylketonuria [PKU], which affects metabolism, cystic fibrosis, which affects the mucus-producing glands in the body, and Tay Sachs disease, which leads to progressive neurological deterioration and death at an early age. Some genetic disorders, such as sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, and thalassemia, affect the ability of the blood cells to perform their natural functions.
Sometimes something happened in the cells when the fetus was forming that altered the way the baby developed in the womb. A child may have genetic defects that affect the size or shape of the body or of various organs, such as dwarfism, spina bifida [open spine], hydrocephalus, [head enlarged because of fluid accumulation], clubfoot, cleft lip or palate, and some congenital heart defects.
In other cases, the baby’s genes may be perfectly normal but something happened while the fetus was developing that caused damage. Perhaps the mother had rubella [German measles], which affected the baby’s hearing or vision. Some babies are born too soon, before they are completely developed. Sometimes something happens in the womb or at birth that caused brain damage leading to mental retardation or cerebral palsy [which affects movement and posture].
Some children contract a serious illness, like meningitis, within their first few years that causes hearing loss or brain damage leading to disabilities. Many defects show up immediately or shortly after birth or an illness, but some problems may not be obvious until the child is several months or even several years old.
Severe handicapping conditions when not treated, may result in stunted emotional and mental development as well as severe physical problems.