Birth Defects

Birth defects are the leading cause of infant mortality, and the costs, both monetary and non-monetary, to individuals, families, communities, and the health care industry are substantial. Nationally, there are 120,000 babies (about 1 in 33) born with a birth defect each year.

Folic acid contributes to overall good health and is particularly important for women of childbearing age. Insufficient folic acid is a major cause of serious birth defects involving the spine and brain (neural tube defects). Some studies suggest that folic acid may also reduce a baby’s risk of other birth defects, such as orofacial clefts, heart defects and urinary defects. Folic acid may also help protect women and men from cardiovascular disease and some cancers, including cervical, colon, and breast.

Precautions to Take While Pregnant

During pregnancy, a woman may be exposed to various infectious diseases, some of which have the ability to infect the placenta and seriously harm a fetus resulting in deafness, vision loss, neurological and behavioral disorders, or other birth defects. Toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus (CMV), varicella, rubella, and lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) are among the agents that are recognized to have the potential to cause birth defects in a developing fetus. Additionally, while some infectious diseases may not pass from an infected mother to her baby, they may have a serious impact on pregnancy such as uterine infection, miscarriage, premature labor, or stillbirth.

Prenatal testing for immunity to infections is an ideal start for any woman planning a family. Furthermore, should exposure to infectious disease occur while a woman is pregnant, she should be aware that consultation with her physician is important to determine the likelihood of infection or harm to the fetus, and the preventive measures available such as vaccination.

Learn more about the common infections that pregnant women can have that may cause serious birth defects in a developing baby click on the following link http://www.cdc.gov/features/pregnancy/.