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.
Taking folic acid well before conception helps reduce the risk of 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
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
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