What Congenital Means

Understanding What Congenital Means in Healthcare

pediatric surgery baby image
Happy Baby. Image: (c) Erin Lee

Definition: The word congenital refers to diseases or problems with the body that are present at birth.

Congenital Health Problems

Congenital problems are commonly referred to as "birth defects". These problems may be genetic, caused by difficulties during pregnancy or the cause may not be known. Congenital problems can range from very minor to severe and life-threatening.

A minor congenital problem could be color blindness.

 Present at birth, the inability to see all colors can eliminate the possibility of working at some jobs as an adult, but otherwise, the individual can have a normal life span and normal health.  Minor congenital problems may not be detected until later in life, when a child is able to describe an issue or when medical testing reveals the issue.

Some infants are born with hernias, which is another type of congenital health issue.  Some may require surgery or could potentially be a non-issue. 

A severe congenital problem could be a cleft palate that makes it difficult to take in enough milk to grow and thrive as an infant.  Heart problems present at birth can range from minor issues that cause a heart murmur to serious issues that can lead to open heart surgery or even death.

A congenital problem is the opposite of an acquired problem, which occurs with aging, repetitive use, lifestyle issues or injury.


Also Known As: congenital defect, congenital problems, congenital diseases, congenital birth defect, birth defect, congenital anomaly, congenital disorder, congenital condition, congenital missing, congenital syndrome,

Common Misspellings: conjenital, congenial, congenitle, congenitel

Examples: The baby was born with a diaphragmatic hernia, a congenital problem.

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