Congenital Deformities

Physical abnormalities that are present at or before birth are called congenital. These deformities may affect the facial structure such as with cleft lip, or may be skeletal, such as with clubfeet or spina bifida. A baby may be missing a limb or have one shorter than the other, or may have an extra toe or finger. The most severe forms of congenital deformities (sometimes referred to as birth defects) include neural tube defects, heart defects, and Down syndrome, a lifelong condition that may cause additional health problems for the child.

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.