Women's

4 Common Myths about Birth Defects Every Mom Should Know

Jan 18 • 2017

Birth defects may not be completely preventable, but knowing the facts can help moms reduce the risk of this occurrence, before and during pregnancy. In honor of National Birth Defects Prevention Month, we’ve outlined a few of the biggest misconceptions surrounding birth defects and highlighted some important truths every mom should know.

  1. Birth defects are so rare – my child isn’t likely to have one.
    Many parents don’t realize how common birth defects actually are. Every 4 ½ minutes, a baby in the United States is born with one. They impact one in 33 babies each year and are responsible for one in five infant deaths. Almost 120,000 babies are affected by a birth defect every single year.
  2. Genetics are the only cause of birth defects.
    While genetics certainly can be the cause of a birth defect, they are not the only cause. In fact, many birth defects are the result of simple lifestyle factors like smoking, using drugs or consuming alcohol during pregnancy. Other things like lack of folic acid in the diet or exposure to dangerous chemicals or viruses during pregnancy can also greatly increase your infant’s risk.
  3. Moms can’t do anything to prevent birth defects.
    There is no way to guarantee that your baby will be born without a birth defect, but there are many things that can be done to reduce his risk. This includes:

    • Taking folic acid supplements before conception
    • Taking prenatal vitamins during pregnancy
    • Avoiding tobacco, drugs and alcohol during pregnancy
    • Speaking with your doctor about medications you’re currently taking
    • Maintaining a healthy weight to prevent obesity and diabetes
  4. If my baby leaves the hospital without a diagnosis, he does not have a birth defect.
    Some birth defects affect physical appearance, but not all. In fact, many birth defects aren’t found right after birth. For example, if your little one has spina bifida, cleft lip, or another physical defect, it will be easily spotted. However, heart defects might not be caught immediately. It’s important to have a relationship with your pediatrician and bring your baby in for check-ups as often as recommended to ensure that anything not spotted at birth can be identified as early as possible. If you’re concerned about the risk of birth defects due to genetics in your family health history or need recommendations for adjusting your lifestyle before getting pregnant, speak with your doctor today.