Birth defects

The leading cause of death under age 1

Each year, over 2,000 babies in Minnesota are born with serious birth defects. Birth defects contribute to one in every five deaths. Babies born with birth defects have a greater chance of illness and long-term disability than babies without birth defects.

Some birth defects can be prevented

Some birth defects are caused by genetic factors. Some birth defects are caused by maternal factors such as the use of alcohol, cigarettes, or illicit drugs; obesity and diabetes. Other birth defects are caused by use of some medications or exposure to some infectious diseases and chemicals. For some birth defects, we know the cause, but the cause of most birth defects is unknown. 

Increase your chance of having a healthy baby

Not all birth defects can be prevented, but some can. To help prevent birth defects:

  • Take 400mcg of folic acid every day, from when menstruation begins through menopause.
  • Don't drink alcohol, smoke, or use illegal drugs.
  • See a health care professional regularly and get prenatal care as soon as possible:
    • Talk about medications, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements, and herbal supplements.
    • Talk before stopping any medications that are needed to treat health conditions.
    • Learn how to prevent infections during pregnancy.
    • Get recommended vaccinations.
  • Control any medical conditions before becoming pregnant. Some conditions that increase the risk for birth conditions include diabetes and obesity. Plan carefully and use contraception until you are ready for a healthy pregnancy.
  • Know your family medical history, potential genetic risks, and seek reproductive genetic counseling if appropriate.

What is being done about birth defects?

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