Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year. That translates into nearly 120,000 U.S. babies affected by birth defects. These conditions are a leading cause of death in the first year of life, causing 1 in every 5 infant deaths. Babies who survive and live with birth defects can have lifelong challenges, such as problems with physical movement, learning, and social interaction.
What are the most common birth defects?
As a group, heart defects are the most common birth defects. They occur in about 1 in every 100 births in the United States each year. Down syndrome is also a common condition. Each year, about 6,000 babies born in the United States have
Down syndrome. This means that Down syndrome occurs in about 1 in every 700 babies. Also, about 7,000 U.S. babies each year, or about 1 in every 600 babies, are born with a cleft palate, cleft lip or both.
What are some ways to help prevent birth defects?
We know that not all birth defects can be prevented. But a woman can increase her chances of having a healthy pregnancy by managing health conditions and adopting healthy behaviors before becoming pregnant. This is important because many birth defects happen very early during pregnancy, sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant.
Here are some steps to get ready for a healthy pregnancy:
- Get 400 micrograms (mcg) of the B vitamin, folic acid every day before and during pregnancy.
- Don’t drink alcohol at any time during pregnancy.
- Don’t smoke.
- Talk to a healthcare provider about taking any medicine, both prescription and over-the-counter.
- Keep health conditions like diabetes under control.
- Eat a healthy diet and work to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
- See a healthcare professional regularly.
Increasing awareness of these steps offers hope for reducing the number of birth defects in the United States. Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it also can be stressful. Knowing that you are doing all that you can to get ready for pregnancy, staying healthy during pregnancy, and giving your baby a healthy start will help you to have peace of mind.
What is CDC doing?
CDC works to identify causes of birth defects, find opportunities to prevent them, and improve the health of those living with birth defects. READ MORE…