Awareness of Birth Defects Across the Lifespan
Join the nationwide effort to raise awareness of birth defects and their impact on individuals, parents, and families.
Birth defects are structural changes present at birth that can affect almost any part of the body. Advancements in medicine and surgery have led to better survival, and thankfully, more children born with birth defects grow up to lead full lives.
Awareness of birth defects across the lifespanexternal icon helps provide individuals, parents, and families affected by birth defects the information they need to seek proper care. It also gives healthcare professionals the evidence they need to deliver the best care for patients across all stages of life: before and during pregnancy, and in infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
Before and During Pregnancy
Birth defects can happen for many reasons. Although not all birth defects can be prevented, people can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by managing health conditions and adopting healthy behaviors before becoming pregnant. 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 in life will help you to have peace of mind.
Having a baby is a special, life-changing experience, but it can also present challenges for new parents. Parents of a child with a birth defect can face these challenges and prepare for their child’s needs by learning about their child’s condition. This knowledge can equip you to make the best possible choices for your child’s health. If your baby is diagnosed with a birth defect during pregnancy or born with a birth defect or other health condition, your baby may need special care as he/she grows and develop.
Meeting the complex needs of a person with birth defects involves the whole family and can be challenging at times. But finding resources, knowing what to expect, and planning for the future can help. Early intervention services and supports include special education, speech therapy, and physical therapy; these can have a significant impact on your child’s ability to learn new skills, overcome challenges, and increase success in school and life.
Adolescents and young adults living with birth defects may face unique challenges as they transition from childhood to adulthood. Transition to adult health care can be tricky for teens and young adults living with a birth defect; they may need to navigate changes in insurance, or transition from a pediatric specialist (whom they may have known all their lives) to an adult specialist. Some may gain responsibility for their own care decisions. It is especially important for people with birth defects and their families to begin planning for this transition during childhood so they can lead healthy, independent lives as adults.
With every pregnancy, a person starts out with a 3% chance of having a baby with a birth defect, regardless of underlying health conditions or lifestyle factors. Many people with birth defects and other health conditions have healthy, uneventful pregnancies. However, people with birth defects may be more likely to have a baby with a birth defect. Talking with a genetic counselor can be helpful. People living with birth defects should talk with their healthcare providers, before becoming pregnant, about how a pregnancy might affect them and their baby.
- National Birth Defects Awareness Month Digital Toolkitexternal icon
- National Birth Defects Awareness Month Social Media Resources
- Real Stories from Real Families Living with Birth Defects | CDC
- Finding Support for Families Living with Birth Defects | CDC
- Birth Defects and the Health Care Provider’s Role | CDC
- About CDC’s Work on Birth Defects | CDC