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Pediatric Birth Defects

Key points about birth defects in children

  • A birth defect is a health problem or abnormal physical change that is present when a baby is born. Birth defects range from very mild to life-threatening and limiting.
  • Birth defects can happen for many reasons. But often the cause isn’t known.
  • Many birth defects can be diagnosed before birth with tests. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about testing.
  • The risk for birth defects varies by type of defect, family health history, age of parents and other factors. Your provider can tell you more about your risk of having a child with a birth defect.
  • There is no cure for birth defects. But children can often be treated to help reduce problems.
  • Researchers are trying to find ways to prevent many birth defects. Not all birth defects can be prevented. Taking steps to be healthy before and during pregnancy is important.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Prevention and Risk Assessment

What is a birth defect in children?

What causes birth defects in a child?

Which children are at risk for birth defects?

What are the symptoms of birth defects in a child?

What are possible complications of birth defects in a child?

How can I help prevent birth defects in my child?


How are birth defects diagnosed in a child?


How are birth defects treated in a child?

How can I help my child live with a birth defect?

Next steps

Departments that Treat Birth Defects

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Cancer Genetics Program

Our cancer genetics experts help answer important questions about your child's inherited risk for cancer.

Rare Disease Institute - Genetics and Metabolism

Children's National Rare Disease Institute (CNRDI) is a first-of-its-kind center focused exclusively on advancing the care and treatment of children and adults with rare genetic diseases.