Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content

Presented on .

Birth defects are serious conditions that involve changes to the structure of one or more parts of the body. While the causes of many birth defects are still unknown, their importance and the impact on peoples’ lives are quite clear. Birth defects are common, occurring in 1 of every 33 babies born every year in the United States. Depending on the severity of the defect, the expected lifespan of a person with a birth defect can be greatly reduced. In 2011, of the 24,000 infants that died in their first year of life, 4,800 succumbed due to a birth defect. Additionally, birth defects are a leading cause of pediatric hospitalizations and medical expenditures. It is estimated that 2.6 billion US dollars are spent annually in caring for infants, children, and adults living with a birth defect.

CDC and its partners are working together to identify both genetic and environmental risk factors that may contribute to the development of birth defects. Folic acid fortification has been a major success in the prevention of some types of birth defects and there is ongoing research on the impact of interventions that target obesity, smoking, and diabetes. We have made great advances, but there is still much that can be done to understand and prevent birth defects.

In this session of Grand Rounds we discussed some of the research underway to identify the risk factors for birth defects and develop the key intervention strategies that can be used to help ensure that every child is born in the best possible health.

Beyond the Data

Dr. John Iskander and Dr. Allen Mitchell discuss some of the public health advances in preventing birth defects. Birth defects are common, occurring in 1 in 33 pregnancies and affecting 120,000 babies born each year. While the vast majority of their causes remain unknown, there is much that public health workers and individuals can do to reduce the risk of birth defects.

Public health workers must continue to:

  • Identify genetic and environmental causes of birth defects,
  • Monitor medications that may increase or decrease risk to pregnant women and
  • Implement simple interventions that may help to reduce risk.

Individuals must:

  • Manage pre-pregnancy obesity,
  • Control blood sugar and diabetes and
  • Avoid smoking.

Presented By

Marcia L. Feldkamp, PhD, PA
Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Medical Genetics
University of Utah
Jennita Reefhuis, PhD
Epidemiology Team Lead, Birth Defects Branch,
Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities

National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, CDC
Allen A. Mitchell, MD
Director of the Slone Epidemiology Center
Professor of Epidemiology and Pediatrics

Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine
Suzanne Gilboa, PhD, MHS
Partnerships and Applied Epidemiology Team Lead, Birth Defects Branch,
Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities

National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, CDC

Facilitated By

John Iskander, MD, MPH
Scientific Director
Phoebe Thorpe, MD, MPH
Deputy Scientific Director
Susan Laird, MSN, RN
Communications Director

Enjoyed this Presentation?

Get notified about the latest updates from Public Health Grand Rounds right in your inbox by setting up an alert today!

Get notified about the latest updates from Public Health Grand Rounds right in your inbox by setting up an alert today!Sign Up

Sign Up

Get notified about the latest updates from Public Health Grand Rounds right in your inbox by setting up an alert today!

You May Also Like

Folic Acid and Birth Defects

February 2010, Mental Health
Baby chewing on toy

Every year, approximately 300,000 children around the world are born with neural tube defects (NTD). Learn about efforts to decrease the prevalence of NTDs in the US and hear about much needed global strategies to reduce the burden of NTDs worldwide through mandatory fortification of staple foods with folic acid.

NAS – Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

August 2016, Drug Use, Maternal Health

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) occurs when newborn babies experience withdrawal after being exposed to drugs in the womb. It can occur with illicit and prescription drugs, including prescription opioids. Find out what CDC is doing with state and local partners to develop better opioid prescribing policies.

  • Page last reviewed: February 28, 2018
  • Page last updated: February 28, 2018
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Science
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication
TOP