Did you know that 1 in 33 babies born in the U.S. has a birth defect?
Most people don’t realize how common these conditions are. Every 4 ½ minutes, a baby is born in the United States with a major birth defect. These conditions are common, costly and critical. In fact, birth defects are a leading cause of death in the first year of life. And, for affected babies who survive and live with these conditions, birth defects increase the risk for long-term disabilities. Birth defects not only impact babies born with these conditions; they also have an emotional and financial impact on their families and communities.
The good news is that we’ve learned a lot about what might increase the risk for birth defects. For example, we know that taking certain medications, having uncontrolled diabetes, smoking cigarettes, or drinking alcohol during pregnancy can increase the risk for birth defects. We also know that certain things, like consuming folic acid daily before and during early pregnancy, can reduce the risk for major birth defects. The CDC continues to study the causes of birth defects, look for ways to prevent them, and work to improve the lives of people living with these conditions.
Each year, MOD and the CDC join many organizations to recognize January as National Birth Defects Prevention Month.
It’s important to remember that many birth defects happen very early during pregnancy, sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant, so planning a pregnancy and working to get healthy before becoming pregnant can make a difference.
Written By: Cynthia A. Moore, M.D., Ph.D. Director
Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention