Birth defects are more common than you’d think.
- Did you know that every 4.5 minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect in the U.S.? That’s 1 in 33 babies or more than 120,000 babies each year.
- Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They may affect how the body looks, works, or both.
- Common birth defects include heart defects, cleft lip and cleft palate, Down syndrome and spina bifida. Some birth defects are on the rise for unknown reasons – like gastroschisis.
- Birth defects are the leading cause of infant deaths in the first year of life in the U.S.
- Birth defects are the leading cause of death and disability in children across the world.
There are thousands of different birth defects, and about 70 % of the causes are unknown.
- Birth defects are thought to be caused by a complex mix of factors including our genes, behaviors and environment.
- Many birth defects are discovered after the baby leaves the hospital or within the first year of life.
- Babies who survive and live with birth defects are at an increased risk for long-term disabilities and lifelong challenges.
- Women can take steps toward a healthy pregnancy. Taking 400 micrograms of folic acid during childbearing years can help to reduce the risk for birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (NTDs).
- Pregnant or trying to conceive? Here are steps you can take to help prevent birth defects and have a healthy pregnancy.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and “street” drugs during pregnancy. Talk to your provider before you start or stop taking any type of medications.
- Prevent infections during pregnancy – wash your hands often and well. Don’t clean the kitty litter box or keep turtles in your home.
- Stay safe from Zika. Pregnant women should avoid travel to Zika affected areas.
- Make sure your vaccinations are up to date.
- Be careful to prevent foodborne illnesses with these food prep tips.
- Get chronic medical conditions under control before pregnancy. Diabetes and obesity may increase the risk for birth defects.
- Collect your family health history and share it with your healthcare provider.
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Have questions? Email our health education specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.