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Birth Defects

Summary

A birth defect is a problem that happens while a baby is developing in the mother's body. Most birth defects happen during the first 3 months of pregnancy. One out of every 33 babies in the United States is born with a birth defect.

A birth defect may affect how the body looks, works or both. Some birth defects like cleft lip or neural tube defects are structural problems that can be easy to see. To find others, like heart defects, doctors use special tests. Birth defects can range from mild to severe. Causes can include

For most birth defects, the cause is unknown.

Health care providers can diagnose certain birth defects during pregnancy, with prenatal tests. That's why it important to get regular prenatal care. Other birth defects may not be found until after the baby is born. Sometimes the defect is obvious right away. Other times, the health care provider may not discover it until later in life.

Babies with birth defects often need special care and treatments. The treatments may include surgery, medicines, assistive devices, and therapies.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Start Here

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Diagnosis and Tests

Prevention and Risk Factors

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Living With

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Related Issues

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Specifics

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  • From the National Institutes of Health (Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center)
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  • (March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation) Also in
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  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)
  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)
  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)
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Genetics

  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine)
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  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine)
  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine)

Statistics and Research

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  • (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
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Clinical Trials

  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health)

Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)

Reference Desk

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