congenital disordersLast updated
A congenital disorder is a disability that has been present since a person was born. It’s preferable to use the term “congenital disorder” instead of “birth defect,” which is considered derogatory. Congenital disorder, also sometimes called a “congenital anomaly,” is not synonymous with “genetic disorder” as some congenital disorders may not be a result of a genetic anomaly. Common congenital disorders include congenital heart disease, Trisomy 21 (also known as Down syndrome), and certain types of blindness and d/Deafness.
When describing a person with a congenital disorder, naming the specific congenital disorder is helpful for clarity. If the disorder is not known or if speaking about the topic in a broader sense, “has a disability” or “has had a disability since birth” can be used. When writing about a parent with a child who has a congenital disorder, it’s important to remember that, per the World Health Organization, approximately half of congenital disorders have no known cause, and only some congenital disorders with known causes can be prevented. Some factors are known to contribute to congenital disorders, such as exposure to certain chemicals and access to nutrition and health care. Therefore, when writing about congenital disorders, it’s important to avoid language that blames or demonizes the parent. Additionally, focusing on the “chance” or “likelihood” of having a baby with a congenital disorder can be less stigmatizing than a term like “risk.”
- Fact Sheet: Congenital abnormalities (World Health Organization)
- What is Down syndrome? (National Down Syndrome Society)
A congenital disorder is a condition that has been present since birth, such as Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) or congenital heart disease. This term is more current than “birth defect,” which can imply an individual is “defective.” Focusing on the “chance” or “likelihood” of having a baby with a congenital disorder can be less stigmatizing than a term like “risk.”