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Health Condition

Birth Defects Prevention

About This Condition

Birth defects affect about 120,000 babies born in the United States each year. Birth defects account for more than 20% of infant deaths and contribute substantially to life-long disabilities.

The causes of about 70% of all birth defects are unknown. Various occupational hazards, dietary factors, medications, personal habits, and environmental exposures may contribute to birth defects, but many questions remain about the exact nature of their influence.

Neural tube defects (NTDs) are one of the most common birth defects. NTDs result when the neural tube (which includes the spinal cord and brain) fails to close during the first month of embryonic development. NTDs include several disorders ranging from spina bifida (incomplete closure of the bones around the spinal cord that can lead to paralysis) to a lack of a cranium (the bones of the head) and its contents, called anencephaly. Approximately 4,000 pregnancies in the United States are affected by NTDs each year.

References

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2. Czeizel AE, Dudás I. Prevention of the first occurrence of neural-tube defects by periconceptional vitamin supplementation. N Engl J Med 1992;327:1832-5.

3. Forrest JD. Epidemiology of unintended pregnancy and contraceptive use. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1994;170:1485-9.

4. Moore KL. Formulation of the trilaminar embryo. In: The Developing Human. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Co., 1988:55-64.

5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Use of folic acid for prevention of spina bifida and other neural tube defects: 1983-1991. MMWR 1991;40:513-6.

6. Shaw GM, Carmichael SL, Yang W, et al. Periconceptional dietary intake of choline and betaine and neural tube defects in offspring. Am J Epidemiol 2004;160:102-9.

7. Shaw GM, Carmichael SL, Yang W, et al. Periconceptional dietary intake of choline and betaine and neural tube defects in offspring. Am J Epidemiol 2004;160:102-9.

8. Botto LD, Mulinare J, Erickson JD. Occurrence of congenital heart defects in relation to maternal mulitivitamin use. Am J Epidemiol 2000;151:878-84.

9. Botto LD, Khoury MJ, Mulinare J, Erickson JD. Periconceptional multivitamin use and the occurrence of conotruncal heart defects: results from a population-based, case-control study. Pediatrics 1996;98:911-7.

10. Czeizel AE. Reduction of urinary tract and cardiovascular defects by periconceptional multivitamin supplementation. Am J Med Genet 1996;62:179-83.

11. Werler MM, Hayes C, Louik C, et al. Multivitamin supplementation and risk of birth defects. Am J Epidemiol 1999;150:675-82.

12. Preston-Martin S, Pogoda JM, Mueller BA, et al. Prenatal vitamin supplementation and risk of childhood brain tumors. Int J Cancer Suppl 1998;11:17-22.

13. Velie EM, Block G, Shaw GM, et al. Maternal supplemental and dietary zinc intake and the occurrence of neural tube defects in California. Am J Epidemiol 1999;150:605-16.

14. Hambidge M, Hackshaw A, Wald N. Neural tube defects and serum zinc. Br J Obstet Gynaecol 1993;100:746-9.

15. Cnattingius S, Signorello LB, Anneren G, et al. Caffeine intake and the risk of first trimester spontaneous abortion. N Engl J Med 2000;343:1839-45.

16. Clarren SK, Smith DW. The fetal alcohol syndrome. N Engl J Med 1978;298:1063-7.

17. Jones KL. Fetal alcohol syndrome. Pediatr Rev 1986;8:122-6.

18. Streissguth AP, Aase JM, Clarren SK, et al. Fetal alcohol syndrome in adolescents and adults. JAMA 1991;265:1961-7.

19. Stratton K, Howe C, Battaglia F, eds. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Diagnosis, Epidemiology, Prevention and Treatment. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1996:4-21.

20. Gold S, Sherry L. Hyperactivity, learning disabilities and alcohol. J Learn Disabil 1984;17:3-6.

21. Mills JL, Granbard BI, Harley EE, et al. Maternal alcohol consumption and birth weight: how much drinking in pregnancy is safe? JAMA 1984;252:1875-9.

22. Kaminski M. Maternal alcohol consumption and its relation to the outcome of pregnancy and child development at 18 months. Int J Epidemiol 1992;21(suppl 1):S79-81.

23. Rudolph L, Forest CS. Female reproductive toxicology. In: LaDou J, ed. Occupational Medicine. Norwalk, CT: Appleton & Lange, 1990:275-87.

24. Paul M, ed. Occupational and Environmental Reproductive Hazards. A Guide for Clinicians. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1993:xviii.

25. Lalande NM, Hetu R, Lambert J. Is occupational noise exposure during pregnancy a risk factor of damage to the auditory system of the fetus? Am J Ind Med 1986;10:427-35.

26. Shaw GM, Todoroff K, Finnell RH, Lammer EJ. Spina bifida phenotypes in infants or fetuses of obese mothers. Teratology 2000;61:376-81.

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2018.

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