ELI5: Explain Like I'm 5

birth defect

Birth defect is a problem that happens when a baby is growing inside its mother's belly. Usually, when a baby is growing in the belly, everything is developing normally, like building blocks stacking up. But sometimes, one of those building blocks doesn't get placed in the right spot, or it’s missing altogether, causing the baby to be born with some physical or mental differences, known as birth defects.

For example, some babies are born with an opening in their lip or palate, making eating and talking harder. Others are born with a heart that has a problem or a spine that didn’t form perfectly. There are also some babies who are born with Down Syndrome, which means their body and brain are different than most other babies.

These problems can happen to any baby, and it's not something which the baby or its parents did wrong. Sometimes, birth defects are genetic, meaning they're inherited from the parents' genes. Other times, it's simply a matter of chance.

Doctors can often tell if a baby has a birth defect before it's born or soon after birth. They can then work out a plan to take care of the baby and make sure they're as healthy and happy as possible. Many children with birth defects go on to live happy and successful lives just like other children.