A fetal anomaly, also referred to as a birth defect, is a health condition that a baby has at birth. It refers to an abnormal development in the fetus during pregnancy, which may be identified through ultrasound or other diagnostic tests. These anomalies can affect the baby’s structure, function, or body metabolism, potentially leading to physical or mental disabilities.

Key Takeaways

  1. Fetal anomaly refers to atypical or abnormal development in the fetus that’s detectable during pregnancy. It might be a structural deformity, a genetic disorder, or a functional developmental issue.
  2. It’s essential to know that some fetal anomalies are minor and might not impact the long-term health of the baby seriously, yet some could be severe or life-threatening. The type and severity of the anomaly will determine the treatment approach and prognosis.
  3. Fetal anomalies are detected through various prenatal screening tests and imaging techniques during pregnancy, such as an ultrasound scan, amniocentesis, or blood tests. These tests provide crucial information regarding the baby’s health and level of risk for certain conditions.


The term “fetal anomaly” is important in the context of motherhood as it refers to any abnormality found in the development or function of a fetus. It serves as a critical indicator of potential risks or health issues that may occur during pregnancy or after birth.

These anomalies, which can be structural, functional, or genetic, could impact the baby’s life quality, survival, and overall development. Hence, early detection of such anomalies through prenatal screening and diagnostic tests has significant value.

It enables health care providers to provide necessary and timely interventions, counsel expecting parents, and plan for specialized care at the time of delivery if needed. Understanding the term helps parents to better navigate their pregnancy journey and make informed decisions about their baby’s health and well-being.


Fetal anomaly, often discovered through routine ultrasounds or genetic testing during pregnancy, serves a critical purpose in prenatal care – it allows expecting parents and healthcare providers to be aware and prepare for potential health issues that may affect a baby’s life. These anomalies refer to any significant deviations from the norm seen in the fetus’s growth and development.

This knowledge can be vital in deciding the course of the pregnancy, preparing for any necessary medical interventions at birth, or, in some cases, considering if therapeutic termination is a plausible choice based on the severity of the condition. The screening for fetal anomalies is a crucial tool in modern obstetric practice.

It helps in early planning for postnatal care or surgical correction after birth. It also provides prospective parents with the opportunity to make informed decisions about the continuation of the pregnancy, particularly in severe or lethal abnormalities.

This screening also helps in counseling parents about the possible outcome, which includes the baby’s quality of life and any associated lifelong disabilities. Having knowledge of a fetal anomaly beforehand equips parents to mentally, emotionally, and financially prepare for their child’s future needs.

Examples of Fetal anomaly

Down Syndrome: Prenatal screening and diagnostic tests can detect Down syndrome in the fetus. This condition is caused by an extra chromosome 21, leading to mental and physical development delays and health issues.

Congenital Heart Defects: A fetal anomaly scan can show problems with a baby’s heart. This might include conditions like a hole in the heart, narrowed or leaky valves, or more complex conditions where the heart’s chambers and arteries are incorrectly connected.

Spina Bifida: This is a type of neural tube defect where the baby’s spine and spinal cord don’t develop properly in the womb, causing a gap in the spine. This condition can be detected during the mid-pregnancy anomaly scan, and in some severe cases, surgery can be performed even before the baby is born.

FAQs on Fetal Anomaly

What is a fetal anomaly?

A fetal anomaly, also known as a birth defect, is a condition that occurs in a fetus while it is still in the mother’s womb. It can affect the structure of a baby’s body, its bodily functions, or its metabolism.

What causes fetal anomalies?

The exact causes of many fetal anomalies are unknown. They can be caused by genetic factors, environmental factors, or a combination of both. Some can also be caused by certain medications or infections during pregnancy.

How are fetal anomalies detected?

Many fetal anomalies are detected through prenatal screenings such as ultrasound scans and blood tests. Some severe anomalies can be spotted early in pregnancy, while others may not be detected until later stages.

What happens if a fetal anomaly is detected?

If a fetal anomaly is detected, the mother may be referred for further tests to assess the baby’s condition. The doctor will then discuss the findings and possible treatment options with the parents.

Can fetal anomalies be treated?

Some fetal anomalies can be treated before birth through procedures such as fetal surgery. Others may require treatment after birth or ongoing care and support. The specific treatment will depend on the type and severity of the anomaly.

Related Motherhood Terms

  • Prenatal diagnosis
  • Congenital abnormality
  • Birth defects
  • Genetic testing
  • Ultrasound screening

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