Birth defects are abnormalities that may cause physical and/or mental disabilities. Most birth defects are discovered during an infant’s first year of life and most commonly occur during the first trimester when the baby’s organs are forming. Birth defects can vary from mild to severe, some may even be fatal. Birth defects may result from genetics, lifestyle choices and behaviors, exposure to certain medications and chemicals, infections during pregnancy, or a combination of these factors. All birth defects cannot be prevented; however, healthy behaviors during pregnancy increase the chances of having a health infant, such as:
Some birth defects are 100% preventable; do not drink alcohol while pregnant.
Major anatomical abnormalities or birth defects are visible on an ultrasound.
Every 4 ½ minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect in the United States.
- get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day - women who plan on becoming pregnant should begin taking folic acid before conception.
- avoid use of tobacco products, illegal drugs, and alcohol.
- maintain a healthy weight - if diabetic, keep diabetes under control.
- prevent infections - wash your hands often.
- attend regular prenatal appointments with your healthcare provider.
For more information, contact the Department of Health and Senior Service's Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology, at (573) 751-6102.