Mental health challenges after a birth defect diagnosis: Moms

July 21, 2023

It's normal to have mental health challenges after your baby gets a birth defect diagnosis. You may feel worried, sad, or angry. You'll likely have a lot of questions and concerns. 

What are birth defects?

Birth defects are structural changes present at birth that can affect almost any part of the body. They may affect how the body looks, works or both.

Birth defects can happen at any time during pregnancy. But most happen during the first 3 months of pregnancy (also called first trimester), when your baby’s organs are forming. Birth defects also can happen later in pregnancy, when your baby’s organs are still growing and developing.

Some birth defects don’t need treatment or can be treated easily. But other birth defects need quick treatment because they cause serious problems or even death.

How do people feel when their baby gets a birth defect diagnosis?

Moms and birthing people have many different types of emotions when their baby gets a birth defect diagnosis.

Depression and anxiety

It’s normal to feel anxious and sad if you’re dealing with a birth defect diagnosis. But if you’re feeling more than just sad, it could be depression. It’s a medical condition that affects your thoughts, can interfere with your daily life and even causes changes to your body. It needs treatment to get better. 

Depression is not your fault. And treatment can help you feel better. Untreated perinatal depression can cause problems for you and your baby. If you think you’re depressed, tell your health care provider right away. 


You are not alone. Birth defects are common. A baby is born with a birth defect every 4½ minutes in the United States. And birth defects affect about 120,000 babies each year.       

Blame and grief

Some parents blame themselves. But, for most birth defects, the cause is unknown and outside your control. “The very best thing you can do for yourself and your baby is to focus on self-care throughout the rest of your pregnancy,” says Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

It's normal to grieve. “Learning that your baby will require hospitalization or multiple medical interventions after birth represents a loss of the life you imagined having with your new child,” says CHOP. 

How do you find support?

When your baby gets a birth defect diagnosis, it is important to get support. There are many different resources available for moms and birthing people who have a baby with a birth defect diagnosis. 

You can talk to:

  • A medical care team that specializes in treating birth defects.

  • Your prenatal care provider.

  • A mental health provider or counselor.

  • Other families or people who have gone through the same experience