How to Cope With Birth Defects

Three Methods:Learn About Your Baby’s ConditionFind Local SupportPrepare Yourself for a Child with a Birth Defect

Finding out that your new baby has a birth defect can be overwhelming and place a serious strain on you and your family during an otherwise joyful time. If your family is about to welcome or has just welcomed a baby with a birth defect, you may wish to follow these steps to cope with the difficult adjustment and make it easier on the entire family.

Method 1
Learn About Your Baby’s Condition

Not all birth defects are permanent or equally debilitating. Some are curable through early treatment, surgery, or therapies. Other birth defects may be a lifelong condition that you and your child will have to take in stride. Learning more about your baby’s specific birth defect will help you prepare to treat or manage the condition and will give you and your child the best chance at a healthy and happy life.

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    Discuss the news with a doctor. A health professional should be able to give you detail about the particular birth defect your baby has and can refer you to important resources for babies with birth defects. He or she will also have to make preparations to be able to properly care for your child.
    • Your obstetrician or the pediatrician may refer you and the baby to a surgical, gastrointestinal, heart, or nervous system specialist to learn more about the condition or coordinate treatment for the baby.
    • Most physicians will be able to answer your questions about the likely severity of the birth defect, the likely adaptations you will have to perform to make life comfortable and safe for your child, and what to expect in terms of caring for the baby.
    • Most physicians can refer you to programs that may help cover treatment costs, education expenses, and other unanticipated changes in living costs.
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    Arm yourself with in-depth knowledge on the birth defect. Every birth defect – from Down syndrome to congenital heart defects to Spina bifida – has a significant body of research and information compiled online and in medical publications.
    • Read only information on birth defects from credible sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control, the March of Dimes, or the National Library of Medicine.
    • Do not expect that you will remember and understand everything you initially read on your baby’s birth defect. It will take time to learn the ins and outs of the condition and the details on management and care for your child.

Method 2
Find Local Support

Trying to cope with a birth defect alone may be confusing and stressful. The best way to manage the change in your expectations and your responsibilities as a parent is to learn from others who have already experienced what you are going through. Consider a range of support options to maximize the chance that you will build a strong support network, as this will help you and your baby both now and in the future.

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    Discuss the birth defect with family and friends. Informing your loved ones of the nature of your baby’s birth defect will help others know what to expect and how to safely interact with your child.
    • Talking about your feelings and emotions with regards to your baby’s birth defect may help you cope by relieving stress and sharing your struggles with people who care about you and are willing to support you.
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    Search for a local support group. There are many national and local groups that offer support for families with a child living with a birth defect. Search online for group meetings or outings with other parents and families.
    • Some families find engagement and activism tremendously helpful in coping with a birth defect. Volunteering at birth defect awareness groups and working to prevent birth defects in other children may provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment once the initial adjustment has taken place.
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    Seek professional counseling or advice. In some cases, you may wish to seek the help of a professional in dealing with the news of a birth defect. Realize that it is natural to feel overwhelmed and stressed when learning to cope with birth defects.
    • Do not be afraid or ashamed to seek assistance, as receiving formal help may make the difference between an unhappy initial experience and a successful transition to life with your new baby.
    • Health care counselors may be able to give specific, useful advice for caring for children with particular birth defects. They will also be informed of the most recent treatments, interventions, and research and will be able to link you and your child with the best options for care and support.
    • Psychological counselors can help you work through feelings of anxiety, fear, inadequacy, apprehension, and sadness. If you feel overwhelmed and depressed for more than a few weeks, consider seeking the assistance of a professional for talk therapy or emotional support.

Method 3
Prepare Yourself for a Child with a Birth Defect

Raising a child with a birth defect may impact your finances, health insurance benefits, and lifestyle in numerous ways. After learning the severity and likely impact of your child’s birth defect on his or her physical or mental function, you must begin to prepare your home, finances, and schedule.

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    Inquire about expected health care expenditures. Certain conditions require very little additional expense to take proper care of your child, while others may require expensive medical equipment, extended hospitalization or repeated surgeries, or regular medication.
    • Ask a physician and do research about the likely items or services your child will need to be safe and healthy and to have the best chance at a happy life, such as prosthetic limbs, a wheelchair, a heart stint, GI repair surgery, or special education. He or she can direct you toward government programs that cover the cost of considerable expenses or programs that provide free or low-cost assistance for emotional, physical, and behavioral development.
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    Plan for the appropriate household alterations. Some infants require space for medical equipment in the nursery or may require special ramps or bathroom equipment once they are more mobile.
    • Begin saving for the cost of significant physical alterations to the house, alter clothing for tube or equipment access if necessary, and inquire about financial assistance for special transport or living equipment if your baby will require it.
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    Adjust your work or childcare plans as appropriate. In some cases, financial assistance from the government may allow a parent to stay home to care for a child with a birth defect. In other cases, specialty childcare may need to be arranged so that your child will be appropriately cared for when you return to work.


  • Remember that the stress and disappointment of having a baby with a birth defect will fade with time; working hard to learn about your baby’s condition and simply loving your child will help you cope with the news.
  • Don’t blame yourself. You are there to provide love and support for your child, so do not waste energy beating yourself up over something that cannot be changed and was likely unavoidable.


  • Never be afraid to seek professional help if you are having difficulty coping; welcoming and raising a child with a birth defect can be challenging and overwhelming, and it is natural to feel unequal to the task at first. Accepting assistance from the start will give you and your child the best shot at leading a healthy and happy life together.

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Categories: Childhood Health | Baby Health