A birth defect, also known as a congenital disorder, is an abnormal condition that is present at birth regardless of its cause. Birth defects may result in disabilities that may be physical, intellectual, or developmental. The disabilities can range from mild to severe. Birth defects are divided into two main types: structural disorders in which problems are seen with the shape of a body part and functional disorders in which problems exist with how a body part works. Functional disorders include metabolic and degenerative disorders. Some birth defects include both structural and functional disorders.
Birth defects may result from genetic or chromosomal disorders, exposure to certain medications or chemicals, or certain infections during pregnancy. Risk factors include folate deficiency, drinking alcohol or smoking during pregnancy, poorly controlled diabetes, and a mother over the age of 35 years old. Many are believed to involve multiple factors. Birth defects may be visible at birth or diagnosed by screening tests. A number of defects can be detected before birth by different prenatal tests.
Treatment varies depending on the defect in question. This may include therapy, medication, surgery, or assistive technology. Birth defects affected about 96 million people as of 2015. In the United States, they occur in about 3% of newborns. They resulted in about 628,000 deaths in 2015, down from 751,000 in 1990. The types with the greatest numbers of deaths are congenital heart disease (303,000), followed by neural tube defects (65,000).