World Congenital Malformations Day

World Congenital Malformations Day is celebrated every March 3 at the initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) and several international organizations. Its objective is to make these conditions visible and support as many families as possible.

These represent a real public health problem due to the large number of associated disabilities and the high mortality rate. Although there are effective treatments for some, a large proportion of patients must live with basic measures.

The relevant organizations have created the label #worldbdday to celebrate this day and spread all the activities through social networks. For our part, we have prepared the following article for you to learn a little more about the subject. Keep reading!

Why is World Congenital Malformations Day celebrated?

Birth defects are varied and very complex. Due to the significant disabilities and financial problems that these conditions can generate, they are not only a problem for the patients, but also for the direct family members who are in charge of their care.

The ignorance and – in many cases – the stigma of society related to these defects, led to the creation of the World Day for Congenital Malformations as part of an initiative of several institutions at the international level. The objectives set when celebrating this day are those that we will comment on below.

Prevent birth defects

Yes, in many cases birth defects can be preventable. The fundamental basis for this is proper prenatal care, which unfortunately is often deficient in developing countries.

In fact, according to a WHO publication, the countries with the highest infant mortality rates in 2019 were Nigeria, India, Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Improve the quality of life of patients

Not all birth defects can be completely cured. For example, a child with Down syndrome has a good chance of having a heart malformation, and although the latter can be corrected with a surgical intervention, the rest of the problems associated with the syndrome cannot be eliminated -for now-.

The celebration of World Congenital Malformations Day seeks to positively impact the lives of patients who, despite having a poor prognosis, have every right to live in the best possible way. The latter includes access to a quality health service, good nutrition and possibilities for growth in a friendly environment.

Get better information related to birth defects

The internet is full of health information treated lightly and, at times, written by personnel who are not professionals in the field. This can be an additional burden in families with a member with congenital defects when they try to learn more about the disease.

For this, you can find reliable information in the publications of international organizations (such as this WHO information note) and the official website of this celebration (in English), which also contains the different programs and activities scheduled for the big day. .

World Congenital Malformations Day aims to help reduce the risks of these diseases.

What is the impact of congenital malformations in the child population?

Regardless of the type of defect, almost there is always a variable degree of disability. This limits the quality of life in several aspects, such as organic health, mobility, economy and the mental balance of a family.

According to this scientific review work (2010) the incidence of genetic defects in Spain has shown a significant decrease in the years of study. This may be related to voluntary termination of pregnancy (IVE), a fact that is not without controversy.

Most common congenital malformations and their causes

The following conditions are very common and known in the general population. Following, we will describe three diseases that are not only characterized by anatomical defects, but also functional ones.

Down's Syndrome

It is due to a chromosomal defect called trisomy 21. Despite the fact that many patients may have a more or less normal quality of life, there is always a certain degree of cognitive difficulty, in addition to the obvious physical features.

Malformations of the heart and blood vessels, In addition to the constant problems in the visual and hormonal system, there are other health problems that children with Down syndrome must face.

Discover more: The benefits of music therapy in children with Down syndrome

Spina bifida

Do you remember that some diseases can be prevented during pregnancy? This is the case with spina bifida, a spinal cord defect characterized by the appearance of a bulge in the lower part of the spine.

Taking folic acid supplements before and after pregnancy can significantly decrease its incidence. And even though may improve with some surgical procedures, other associated health problems are usually present, such as hydrocephalus, muscle weakness or paralysis, and syringomyelia.

Cardiovascular malformations

Although they can appear in children with other health problems (such as Down syndrome) they also occur in isolation. All these diseases compromise the proper growth of weight and height. Some of the best known are the following:

Prevention of congenital malformations

Several defects can be avoided with adequate prenatal care. This not only includes attending medical consultations once the pregnancy has been determined, but adequate family planning before conception is adequate in order to prevent these diseases.

Some basic measures are the following:

  • Take folic acid supplements.
  • Avoid or treat some infections in a timely manner.
  • Avoid the consumption of alcohol, tobacco or illicit drugs.

As you can see, these small but important recommendations can be followed to the letter if you have good obstetric control. The faster you go to the doctor's office, the better.

An adequate prenatal control is essential for the prevention and control of congenital diseases.

Find out more: How to prevent birth defects before pregnancy?

Available treatments and research

This aspect depends a lot on the type of birth defect and when it is diagnosed. In general, there are surgical options for the most important anatomical defects, while the great challenge usually lies in functional problems, such as cognitive impairment.

New therapeutic alternatives are being investigated every day to treat this type of disease. The field of genetic editing in human embryos has even been covered.

Thanks to CRISPR technology -which motivated the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine to its creators- it was possible to eliminate the genetic defect that caused a type of heart disease related to sudden death in some high intensity athletes.

How I can help?

If you are interested in collaborating with the objectives pursued by World Congenital Malformations Day, we recommend the following:

  • Make the problem visible with as many people as possible.
  • Support in any way close families in which there is a child with congenital malformations.
  • Support non-profit foundations aimed at improving the quality of life of these patients.
  • Keep you informed on an ongoing basis about these diseases and new treatment options.

World Congenital Malformations Day, a date to remember

March 3 is a special date for hundreds of thousands of lives. It is an excellent opportunity to show empathy with the affected families and disseminate efforts to demand new and better health systems.

The effort of a single person may seem insignificant, but together, great changes can be achieved for the common good. Happy day!