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Common Congenital Conditions and How to Care for Them 

Congenital conditions refer to any medical condition that was acquired in the womb and is present at birth. They’re also occasionally referred to as birth defects or congenital anomalies. This category of medical conditions can produce effects that range from mild to severe. In some instances, your baby may have barely noticeable signs of an anomaly, while others can be recognized immediately. However, many children with congenital conditions can go on and live a long, happy life. Depending on their circumstances, it may be closer to normal than you’d expect. To provide you with more information, we’ll explore some of the most common congenital conditions and how to care for them.


Why Do Birth Defects Happen?

Unfortunately, the direct cause of birth defects is unknown, but it’s believed that both genetic and environmental factors play a role in their development. Chromosomal and gene defects tend to be inherited through genetics. This includes dominant and recessive inheritance of certain conditions. Environmental factors can also increase the risk of congenital conditions. The most influential of these being drugs, tobacco, alcohol, or environmentally acquired diseases (i.e., Zika virus, toxoplasmosis). Although more research is still needed, many experts agree that anomalies occur due to a combination of several factors.

Are Congenital Conditions Preventable?

While certain congenital conditions might not be directly preventable, there are several things you can do before and during pregnancy to lower your baby’s risk. This is one of the reasons planning before conception is so important. Being healthy can help your body prepare for a strong, nourishing pregnancy. Some ways to help lower your risk of birth defects include:

  • Taking folic acid supplements
  • Limiting exposure to chemicals
  • Avoiding alcohol and drugs
  • Not smoking
  • Avoiding secondhand smoke
  • Adhering to your prenatal care plan
  • Seeing your doctor regularly
  • Getting treated for any underlying conditions
  • Taking medication sparingly and only if approved by your doctor
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight


Common Types of Congenital Anomalies

There are several different types of congenital defects that could be present at birth, but some are more common than others. These tend to fall into two categories: structural conditions and developmental conditions.

Structural Conditions

– these relate to your newborn’s various body parts. Depending on their severity, they may or may not affect daily life. Some of the most common structural congenital conditions include:


  • Cleft Lip/Palate – cleft or lip palates occur when the tissues that form the mouth don’t connect together properly. This can affect speech and eating. It usually requires surgery to avoid long-term problems and ensure your baby can get the proper nutrition throughout development.


  • Heart Defects – heart defects are the most common type of congenital condition and don’t tend to have a direct cause. There are several different types, depending on how they affect the heart. Certain things can increase your baby’s risk of heart defects, such as gestational diabetes and smoking.

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  • Neural Tube Defects – neural tube defects are congenital conditions that affect the brain and spinal cord. They can include anencephaly, encephalocele, and spina bifida. Symptoms can also range from mild to severe and folic acid can help reduce your risk of these neural tube defects.


  • Gut and Stomach Issues – in some babies, the stomach muscles don’t properly form together, resulting in a hole near the belly button. This can cause certain organs to be exposed or develop on the outside of the body. Surgery will be performed shortly after birth to correct this.


Developmental Conditions

– these tend to affect how your newborn’s body moves, how they perceive the world, or how they learn. Some of the most common developmental congenital conditions include:


  • Cerebral Palsy – cerebral palsy is the most common congenital developmental condition. It affects your child’s balance, posture, and eventual movement. This is often caused by brain damage during fetal development.


  • Down Syndrome – individuals with Down syndrome are born with an extra chromosome, which in turn affects the way the brain and body develops. The direct cause of Down syndrome is unknown, but it is considered a genetic disorder.


  • Visual Impairments – babies born with a visual impairment may experience a certain degree of blindness. However, not all visual impairments result in complete blindness. These are usually caused by irregularities in eye shape and a lack of neural connections between the eyes and the brain.


  • Hearing Impairments – these occur when a baby has a reduced capacity to hear, or is deaf. Hearing impairments can be genetic or develop on their own. Some of these impairments can be improved with hearing aids, while others are untreatable.


  • Muscular Dystrophy – muscular dystrophy results in a long-term deterioration of the muscles in your child’s body. Although they may pass through development like a child without this condition, eventually their muscles become weaker and weaker. There are several types of muscular dystrophy, each of which affects different parts of the body.


  • Genetic Disorders – genetic disorders are also considered congenital conditions, especially if they’re present at birth. One of the most common genetic disorders in newborns is called fragile X syndrome. This is characterized by a range of developmental problems, most often including learning disabilities and some degree of cognitive impairment.


How Birth Defects are Diagnosed

There are some congenital conditions that can be diagnosed during fetal development with certain tests. Oftentimes, this is done using an ultrasound, chorionic villus sampling (CVS), or amniocentesis. Blood tests can also provide insight regarding specific birth defects (like Down syndrome or spina bifida). Although there are some treatments that can be performed while your baby is in utero, most congenital conditions are not able to be cured. Early diagnosis can, however, help new parents prepare for their baby’s unique circumstances. 


How to Care for Common Congenital Conditions

Receiving the diagnosis that your baby has a congenital anomaly can be difficult to hear. It’s news that may affect the entire family, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t still develop a loving, meaningful relationship. The best way to make sure that you’re prepared to care for a newborn with a birth defect is to get educated, get connected, and get ready to examine the world with a new perspective.

Acknowledge and Process Your Own Emotions

You can’t properly care for your newborn until you process your own emotions. Take the time to let yourself feel. Whether you’re experiencing anger, denial, grief, shock, or even disbelief, it’s okay. Congenital conditions can be a lot to process, but it’s important that you do so in order to give your baby the best environment for growth. 

Get Educated on Your Child’s Condition

Take the time to research your child’s condition, talk to doctors, learn from other parents, and seek out a specialist. The more information you know about your child’s birth defect, the more prepared you’ll be to care for them over the years. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Find Resources for Extra Support

There are several opportunities for families to find support in their community. The best place to begin is to ask your doctor for recommendations. Finding extra support amongst other parents who have a child with the same congenital anomaly can help you feel less alone and give you hope for your future. You may also want to talk to a licensed professional, especially if you’re struggling with the diagnosis.

Celebrate Your Child Normally

Living with a congenital condition can be overwhelming, especially if your newborn needs ongoing care or medical treatments. However, while you’re caring for them, don’t forget that they’re still a child. Celebrate them as you normally would. Give them plenty of cuddles, play with them, engage with them, and track their development. Your newborn is still going to grow into an adult. Even though their journey is different, it still matters.

Babies born with congenital conditions can go on to have a healthy, fulfilling life. Although the anomaly may carry additional medical requirements, your child is still an individual. Do what you can to celebrate their life every day and take pride in their growth and development. During this time, to help ensure that your baby is getting the nutrients they need, Byram Healthcare offers a wide selection of insurance covered breast pumps to new and expecting moms. Browse our breast pump comparison chart and get started with our easy, three-step ordering process today.