Newborn baby image for national birth defect prevention

Having a baby is one of the most precious and most beautiful moments a mom and dad could ever ask for. You get to see your little prince or princess for the first time ever and before that, you may even have a beautiful pregnancy story and journey. What’s not to love?

Unfortunately, pregnancy is not all rainbows and sunshine as we would like to think. It comes with many risks and possible complications for both mommy and baby. While the mom-to-be can experience hypertension and diabetes, the child is at-risk for many birth defects, including spina bifida, cleft lip, congenital heart defects, and many more. To help educate future moms and dads, the CDC recognizes January as National Birth Defects Awareness Month.

In collaboration with the CDC, we want to help spread reliable information. In this post, we will look at what birth defects are, the most common ones, how they occur, and how they can be prevented.

What are Birth Defects?

According to the CDC, birth defect is a term used to describe conditions that are structural changes present at birth that can affect almost any part or several parts of the body. Birth defects are quite common, very costly, and critical conditions. In fact, it is reported that 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year is affected by one or more birth defects. This averages out to approximately 120,000 babies with birth defects each year.

The Most Common Birth Defects

There are numerous birth defects that have been identified over time; however, some occur more frequently than others. Here are some of the most commonly diagnosed birth defects.

  • Anophthalmia and microphthalmia

Anophthalmia is a birth defect where a baby is born without one or both eyes. Microphthalmia is a birth defect in which one or both eyes did not develop fully, so they are small.

  • Cleft lip and cleft palate

These birth defects occur when a baby’s lip or mouth are not properly formed during pregnancy.

  • Congenital heart defects (CHDs)

These are conditions that are present at birth and can affect the structure of a baby’s heart and the way it works.

  • Diaphragmatic hernia

This birth defect occurs when there is a hole in the diaphragm.

Causes of Birth Defects

The cause of many defects are unknown but there are some factors that can be attributed to some of these conditions, such as:

  • smoking, consuming alcohol, using illicit drugs while pregnant
  • certain medical conditions
  • medications
  • genetics
  • STIs and other infections, like the Zika virus
  • being an older mother

Preventing Birth Defects

Even though it is not possible to prevent all birth defects, there are precautionary measures a woman can take before and during pregnancy to reduce the likelihood of her baby having a birth defect. She can:

  • start prenatal care early
  • avoid smoking, consuming alcohol, and using illicit drugs
  • have your doctor place you on folic acid
  • avoid areas with mosquitoes
  • practice safe sex
  • get treatment for infections
  • speak to her doctor about any medication she is taking
  • monitor and control your medical conditions

To help your baby have the best quality of life, be sure to practice these prevention measures and share them with someone else who is pregnant.


CDC. (2021, November 5). What are Birth Defects? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.