Life is full of unpredictable events and life can change at any given time. About 50 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. are not planned, and because many birth defects and fetal health problems occur in the first few weeks after conception, women are not aware that a birth defect has occurred.

Birth Defects

  • The term ‘birth defects’ refers to something that is (medically) wrong at the time of the birth of a baby. You may hear doctors use the term ‘congenital anomaly’ which means the same thing.
  • In general these terms are used for structural changes in the baby. By that we mean that the baby has a malformation of some body part. However the term may also apply to developmental problems such as autism or mental retardation.
  • Birth defects are much more common than most people think. The best data from the United States suggests that birth defects occur in about 1 in 20 babies born!
  • There are many different causes of birth defects. Most of the time the cause of the birth defect is not known. In fact, currently the specific cause of birth defects can only be determined in about 1 in 3 cases.
  • Since the cause of most birth defects is not known, many are simply not preventable. However, a lot of research over the last 25 years has shown that, without a doubt, some of the more common types of birth defects can be prevented if the mother uses Folic Acid in the recommended dose prior to getting pregnant.
  • Some of the birth defects that can be reduced by the mother’s use of Folic Acid include:
    • Spina bifida – a problem with the closure of the spinal column. This can lead to problems with walking and bowel/bladder control.
    • Anencephaly – a problem with the formation of the brain and the surrounding skull. Almost all of these children die shortly after birth
    • Congenital heart disease – a malformation of the heart
    • Cleft lip and palate – abnormal closure of the lip and palate 
    • Limb reduction defects – problems with the development of the arms and legs
    • Obstructive uropathies – abnormal formation of the kidneys or bladder