1.1 Background of the Study

Birth defects, also known as congenital anomalies or congenital disorders, are structural or functional abnormalities present at birth. They encompass a wide range of conditions, affecting various organ systems such as the heart, nervous system, limbs, and more. Birth defects are a pressing public health concern globally, as they can lead to lifelong physical, intellectual, and developmental challenges. The impact of birth defects extends beyond individuals, affecting their families, healthcare systems, and society as a whole. Understanding the underlying causes and developing effective prevention strategies are of paramount importance in mitigating the incidence and severity of these conditions.

The causes of birth defects are multifaceted, often arising from a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Genetic factors involve inherited genes that may carry mutations or variations contributing to the development of birth defects. Environmental factors include exposure to teratogenic agents during pregnancy, such as certain medications, infections, or substances like alcohol and tobacco. Additionally, maternal lifestyle choices, such as nutrition and prenatal care, can significantly impact the likelihood of birth defects. Despite the knowledge of these contributing factors, birth defects continue to occur, necessitating a comprehensive investigation into the knowledge, causes, and preventive measures among antenatal mothers.

Birth defects are any structural or functional abnormalities, including metabolic defects, that are present at birth or are discovered later in life (WHO, 2022) . Globally, birth defects account for 30% of under-five mortality, accounting for 240,000 neonatal deaths (UNICEF, 2022). In addition, it causes long term disabilities affecting individuals, families, health systems and communities. In 2013, the annual cost of hospital care for birth defect-related admissions in the United States of America was approximately $22.9 billion (Arth et al., 2017) Even more worrying is the fact that 90% of children with birth defects live in low-middle income countries where they might not have the requisite health care (WHO, 2022).

Nigeria has approximately 262,000 infant deaths per year making her second in the world in terms of under-five mortality (Arth et al., 2017). According to Bakare et al., 2019 cross-sectional study, the incidence of external birth defects in South Western Nigeria is 6.9%. In another hospital-based study in Enugu, the prevalence is 17.5 per 1000 live births, with the musculoskeletal system being the most affected (Chukwubuike et al., 2020)  The congenital defect causes significant emotional stress and financial burden on the family, and the consequences may last a lifetime.