Disorders and Conditions, Genetics/Birth Defects

Congenital Disabilities: Causes, Diagnosis, and Prevention

Pregnancy is a magical time where your body plays host to your unborn baby and assists in its growth and development. With...

Written by Isabella Roselini · 3 min read >
Congenital Disabilities

Pregnancy is a magical time where your body plays host to your unborn baby and assists in its growth and development. With hormones surging within your body, women suffer from various changes that range from mood swings to developing unusual cravings. While pregnancy is fun, it requires special care and attention to avoid future health complications. These complications may present themselves in the form of congenital disabilities in your baby or by triggering chronic diseases in your body such as diabetes, etc.

What Are Birth Defects?

The first trimester is the most crucial time during one’s pregnancy that decides your baby’s well-being. By definition, a congenital disability or complication is a problem that occurs during the development of a fetus in a mother’s body. 

Birth Defects may affect the appearance or functionality of your child. Conditions such as cleft lip or neural tube defects cause structural abnormalities that affect your child’s arrival. 

Other birth defects may cause cardiovascular complications that can only be diagnosed through specialized tests. Birth Defects can range from mild to severe depending on the targeted organ and the severity of the ailment.


Prenatal testing is one way to diagnose birth defects during pregnancy. While prenatal testing won’t determine all congenital disabilities, it remains crucial to get regular prenatal care to achieve an early diagnosis of congenital disabilities.

The birth defects that prenatal testing may fail to diagnose present themselves once the baby is born. Newborn screening can be used to determine the birth defects that are missed by prenatal testing. 

Defects such as clubfoot can be seen right away. But other internal birth defects may take longer to get diagnosed once the child starts showing relevant symptoms.

Congenital Disabilities


Children suffering from congenital disabilities need special attention and care. Since the symptoms associated with congenital disabilities vary from person to person, the treatments also vary. 

Surgery, prescription medicine, assistive devices, physical and speech therapy are some common treatments used to improve the functionality and mobility of babies suffering from birth defects.

Whether the birth defect is diagnosed during pregnancy or after the baby’s birth, the primary healthcare provider arranges for specialists required to aid the child’s condition once they are born. Children suffering from congenital disabilities often need to see various specialists that enable them to attain specific care.

Risk Factors

While the causes of congenital disabilities can be traced back to various factors. Certain factors increase the risk of causing congenital disabilities, such as

  • People who consume alcohol or smoke during their pregnancy.
  • People who suffer from obesity, diabetes, or other chronic conditions during their pregnancy.
  • Taking high doses of medication may result in side effects.
  • Genetically passed down congenital disabilities. If you have a family member born with a congenital disability, you may want to consult a genetic counselor to prepare and prevent congenital disabilities.
  • Women over the age of 34 years may suffer from complications in their pregnancy.

Preventative Measures

Not all congenital disabilities can be prevented, especially in the case of genetically passed down congenital disabilities. But various preventative measures can be taken to reduce the chances of congenital disabilities in your baby during your pregnancy.

Prenatal Screening

Prenatal care is the first step to planned parenthood. It is crucial to consult your primary health care provider as soon as you discover you are pregnant. 

Going for regular prenatal care and screening during pregnancy reduces the risk of future health complications and congenital disabilities.

Prep Your Body Ahead Of Time

Four hundred micrograms of folic acid are recommended by the doctor and should be consumed every day. Once you decide to get pregnant, start consuming folic acid one month in advance to prepare your body.

Folic acid has Vitamin B, which, when present in enough amounts in a woman’s body, reduces the risk of spine and brain-related congenital disabilities.

Congenital Disabilities
Curb Consumption of Harmful Substances

Consumption of street drugs, recreational drugs, alcohol, and smoking is frowned upon during pregnancy as it increases the chances of complications in your pregnancy.

Alcohol from your bloodstream can be passed to the developing fetus through the umbilical cord, resulting in miscarriage, stillbirth, and various physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. It is best if alcohol consumption is stopped when trying to get pregnant.

Smoking during pregnancy may cause preterm birth, cleft lip, and palate, or infant death. Passive smoking can lead to similar results, which is why it’s best to stay away from cigarettes and smoking areas.

Using street and recreational drugs such as marijuana during pregnancy may lead to premature birth, low birth weight, along with various birth defects. If you use marijuana for medicinal use, consult your doctor regarding the safety and potential health risks.

Manage Your Ongoing Medical Conditions

Talk to your doctor regarding how to prevent infections from reducing the chances of birth defects. Avoid going in extreme temperatures such as hot tubs, resulting in a baby born with a neural tube effect.

People who have diabetes should take steps to control their blood sugar. If your sugar level is high, limit your sugar consumption as failure to do so may result in a baby born with congenital disabilities and cause health complications for the mother as well.

Obesity is another factor that results in congenital disabilities in babies. Talk to your doctor and plan a pregnancy-safe workout and diet plan to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

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