Birth defects are estimated to affect more than 120,000 children in the United States every year. About 3% of babies, or 1 of every 33, are born with a structural birth defect. Birth defects are one of the leading causes of infant deaths. Babies born with birth defects have a greater chance of illness and long-term disability than babies without birth defects. Babies with birth defects are also more likely to be born preterm (before the 37th week of pregnancy) than babies without birth defects. Birth defects account for approximately 30% of all pediatric hospital admissions.
Birth defects can have many causes including genetic mutations, chromosomal abnormalities, environmental exposures, nutrition, and/or random events in the prenatal period. Many defects are thought to be a combination of these factors. Read more about birth defects at the Iowa Registry for Congenital and Inherited Disorders.
More research is needed to study the links between environmental hazards and birth defects, which is why birth defects are part of the Environmental Public Health Tracking Network.