Health conditions

Developmental anomalies

Every parent hopes that their baby will be healthy but some babies are born with developmental anomalies.

What is a developmental anomaly?

A developmental anomaly is a broad term for conditions which are present at conception or occur before the end of pregnancy. In the case of cerebral palsy, a small number also occur after birth.

An anomaly is considered a change from normal development and can affect:

  • structure – how the body is built
  • function – how the body works.

Developmental anomalies are also sometimes called birth defects, congenital malformations or congenital anomalies.

Are developmental anomalies life threatening?

Most developmental anomalies are not severe or life threatening.

Types of developmental anomaly

Structural developmental anomalies include:

  • spina bifida
  • congenital dislocation of the hip
  • congenital heart defects.

Functional anomalies include:

  • cystic fibrosis
  • haemophilia
  • fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Down syndrome.

Causes of a developmental anomaly

The cause of most developmental anomalies is unknown.

How do I know if my child has a developmental anomaly?

A development anomaly can be diagnosed at:

  • any time during pregnancy
  • after stillbirth or termination of pregnancy
  • after live birth but before 6 years of age.

The Western Australian Register of Developmental Anomalies (WARDA)

If you have a child who has a developmental anomaly you may have many questions, including:

  • Why does my child have an anomaly?
  • If we have another child, will the same or a similar anomaly occur?
  • Did my family history, the place where I live or the substances I was exposed to during my pregnancy contribute to this outcome?

These questions are often difficult to answer, especially if there is little known about the anomaly and the reasons for its occurrence.

The collection of accurate information about developmental anomalies by the Western Australian Register of Developmental Anomalies (WARDA) helps to answer these and other questions.

Find out more about WARDA.

What developmental anomalies does WARDA record?

Read about some of the more common developmental anomalies that WARDA records (external site).

Please note that these lists do not list every developmental anomaly and many less common conditions are not listed.

More information

Phone the Western Australian Register of Developmental Anomalies on 9340 2735.

Remember

  • Some babies are born with developmental anomalies.
  • Most of these developmental anomalies are not life threatening.
  • The cause of most developmental anomalies is unknown.

Acknowledgements
Western Australian Register of Developmental Anomalies (WARDA)

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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