Mississippi State Department of Health

Birth defects are an abnormality of body structure, function or chemistry present at birth that results in physical or mental disabilities.

Birth defects are the leading cause of death in the first year of life. While there are thousands of possible types of birth defects, with health consequences that range from mild to life threatening, Down syndrome and cleft lip or cleft palate are the most common in the United States. About 5,500 babies are born each year with Down Syndrome, and about 6,800 with a cleft lip or palate.

While all the causes of birth defects are not known, some birth defects can be prevented. Actions you and your doctor take can help prevent birth defects and make a better life for your baby.

Causes of birth defects

The causes of many birth defects are still unknown. Those with known causes can be divided into four types:

Some birth defects can be prevented

It's vital to visit your doctor before you become pregnant in order to identify and treat conditions that can pose a risk in pregnancy. A doctor can give advice on the lifestyle factors before and during pregnancy that can contribute to or reduce the risk of birth defects.

5 Tips for Preventing Birth Defects

  1. Be sure to take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
  2. Book a visit with your healthcare provider before stopping or starting any medicine.
  3. Become up-to-date with all vaccines, including the flu shot.
  4. Before getting pregnant, try to reach a healthy weight.
  5. Boost health by avoiding harmful substances during pregnancy, such as alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

Prevent to Protect

Infections can affect the health of your developing baby and lead to birth defects. During pregnancy, take these measures to keep your risk of infections low.

Fact Sheets and Other Resources

Links referenced
some birth defects can be prevented    http://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/index.cfm/41,0,376,html
Fact sheet: Preventing Infections    https://www.nbdpn.org/docs/2018_NBDPN_BDPM_Prevent2Protect_Theme_Resources_2017_11_14.pdf
Ten Things to Know About Birth Defects    http://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/index.cfm/41,8365,285,pdf/TenThingsAboutBirthDefects.pdf
Folic Acid and Why You Need It    http://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/index.cfm/41,8367,285,pdf/FolicAcidFacts.pdf
Five Things to Know About Congenital Heart Defects    http://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/index.cfm/41,8366,285,pdf/FiveThingsAboutCongenitalHeartDefects.pdf
Los Defectos de Nacimiento    http://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/index.cfm/41,5154,285,pdf/BirthDefectsPreventionMonth-Spanish.pdf
More fact sheets, posters and resources    http://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/index.cfm/41,0,285,86,html

Find this page at http://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/index.cfm/index.cfm

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