Congenital Abnormalities

Nearly 3% to 4% of all babies born have congenital abnormalities that will impact the way they look, develop, or function—in certain cases for the rest of their lives. Congenital abnormalities are a result of problems during the fetus's development prior to birth. It is essential for moms and dads to be healthy and have good medical care prior to and during pregnancy to decrease the risk of preventable congenital anomalies. Advances in perinatal testing and new diagnostic methods (such as amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling) have made it possible to identify chromosomal and genetic origins of congenital defects earlier.

Several factors contribute to congenital deformities. It can be genetic or the result of infectious diseases that affect the growing fetus. In some circumstances, environmental factors such as exposure to harmful substances may cause birth abnormalities. Alcohol intake during pregnancy is also a recognized risk of congenital deformity, including low birth weight and anomalies of the central nervous system. But it is often impossible to precisely determine why a deformity has occurred.
Congenital deformities are as many treatments as there are types of abnormalities. Corrective operations, prosthetics, orthotics, and physical therapy, together with counseling, may include limb deformity treatment. Technological advances have allowed some interventions, such as spina bifida, to be performed in utero (baby still in the wombs of the mother), which have shown to improve outcomes in comparison with children who have spina bifida after birth.