January is National Birth Defects Awareness Month (NBDAM)! Did you know that 1 in 33 babies born in the United States has a birth defect? That’s about one baby born every 4.5 minutes. A birth defect refers to a structural difference in a baby’s anatomy such as cleft lip and/or palate, spina bifida, or club foot. These differences can occur anywhere in the body and their effects can range from mild to severe.
Birth defects can occur any time during a pregnancy. Most birth defects are thought to occur during the first three months of pregnancy. These differences can be due to an underlying genetic condition or predisposition, a specific exposure such as alcohol or a combination of factors. For many babies the cause of their birth defect remains unknown. Not all birth defects can be prevented; however, there are steps families can take to reduce their baby’s risks. We’ve gathered some helpful resources to learn more about birth defects and preventative measures below.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a dedicated page for birth defects with links to information about birth defects in general, pages about specific birth defects, information on prevention measures, research, data, and relevant articles. They also provide materials such as fact sheets, tip sheets, infographics, videos and podcasts. Explore their resources by visiting Learn More about Birth Defects at CDC.
The National Birth Defects Prevention Network
The National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN) is a volunteer-based website focused on birth defect surveillance, research and prevention. The organization aims to “improve access to, and application of information about the prevalence and trends of birth defects; increased collaboration among members within the birth defects community; and advance science through birth defects surveillance and its application to public health efforts and resource allocation.” Explore their resources including prevention tips, national resource map, webinars, articles and guidelines at National Birth Defects Prevention Network.
MotherToBaby is a free resource where families and providers can learn about the safety of medications and exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding. They provide information in multiple formats including chat, text, phone, and email. This information is available in both English and Spanish. They also provide online factsheets, podcasts, blogs, and information about pregnancy studies. Explore their resources or talk to an expert by visiting MotherToBaby.
The National Society of Genetic Counselors
Having a family history of a birth defect can increase your risks to have a child with the same or different birth defect. These risks can vary based on the type of birth defect, the family history, and the specific underlying genetic cause. To learn more about your risks based on your family history, you can locate a genetic counselor by using the National Society of Genetic Counselor’s Find a Genetic Counselor tool at Find a Genetic Counselor – National Society of Genetic Counselors
As always, talk to your doctor about any information presented in this article, on the sites listed in this article, and with any questions you may have about your family’s care. Remember your doctor and genetic counselor are there to help!