Understanding human development across the lifespan, including birth defects and related or resulting disabilities, was a primary reason NICHD was established in 1962.
Since then, the Institute has helped to establish a research community and research infrastructure for studying birth defects and related disabilities. Through its many components, NICHD conducts and supports research to understand birth defects; their causes and mechanisms; their prevention, detection, and treatments; and the long-term health outcomes of individuals and families affected by these problems.
This information focuses on research on structural birth defects, their causes, their prevention, and their treatments. Research on functional/developmental birth defects is addressed more completely in the intellectual and developmental disabilities content and in the condition-specific topics.
NICHD is aware that the term "birth defects" carries negative undertones and that the term does not reflect the many abilities and talents of those affected by these problems. Communities are discussing alternative terms for describing these birth problems. Until a consensus is reached, this website uses the term "birth defects" to describe health problems present at birth.