What does a congenital condition mean?

Congenital disorders are those which are present from birth. They can be caused by the environment in the mother’s womb, or even inherited. They do not always cause serious issues, but in the event of CHD, they can cause problems that need immediate attention. In some cases, it can also affect their health for the rest of their lives. There are some things you can do to avoid these disorders, but also things you can do to reduce the chances of your baby being born with a congenital condition. This is why we developed CHD Awareness, to ensure that everyone has support while they navigate these health conditions.

Common congenital disorders

There are many different types of common congenital disorders, but some are more common than others.

  • Congenital heart disease: The most common type of congenital disorder, well-known CHDs include having a hole in the heart, valve problems, or a problem with the blood vessels. They are easily diagnosed during newborn or pregnancy screenings.
  • Cleft lip and cleft palate: Also often diagnosed during scans during pregnancy, these are easily fixed after birth.
  • Cerebral palsy: Diagnosed in the first few years of life.
  • Fragile X syndrome: Diagnosed through genetic testing during pregnancy
  • Down syndrome: Often discovered during genetic testing during pregnancy.
  • Spina bifida: Diagnosed during routine scans in pregnancy
  • Cystic fibrosis: Diagnosed during newborn screening.

Testing for Congenital Disorders

Testing for congenital disorders is often possible. Usually, these are performed using a blood test after 10 weeks of pregnancy. Some parents choose to have tests during pregnancy, but not everyone does. However, if you think you may pass on a gene that could cause a congenital anomaly, this is a good idea. Other tests to help understand if your baby has a congenital disability include ultrasound scans, blood tests, and sometimes urine tests.

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS)

Chorionic villus sampling is performed between 10 to 13 weeks after pregnancy has been confirmed. During these months your baby may show signs of a congenital disorder. This is sometimes used to diagnose babies with Down syndrome or other conditions. The doctor will use a needle to collect a small sample of cells from your placenta, then send them off for testing.


After 15 weeks of pregnancy, this is often done instead of CVS. It can confirm if your baby has Down syndrome or another congenital disorder. This is done by taking fluid from around the baby with a needle. It can sometimes cause miscarriage.

Preventing Congenital Disorders

If you have a personal or family history of certain congenital disorders, you may want to take steps to prevent congenital disorders. Such as:

  • Eating a healthy diet with vitamins and minerals
  • Taking folic acid supplements
  • Avoiding alcohol, smoking, or drugs
  • Controlling diabetes and gestational diabetes
  • Avoiding exposure to chemicals
  • Being vaccinated against rubella

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