Facts about Birth Defects
By: Lynda Metz
Several years ago I had the fortunate experience of volunteering in a rural village in east Africa. During that time, I saw kids on a daily basis who had been born with debilitating and sometimes disfiguring birth defects. Our healthcare system may have its problems, but it’s still far superior to those in many parts of the world.
Recently I ran across an article about birth defects from the Centers for Disease Control that contained some interesting facts I’d like to share:
Fact #1: Birth defects are common. Birth defects affect 1 in 33 babies every year and cause 1 in 5 infant deaths. For many babies born with a birth defect, there is no family history of the condition.
Fact #2: Many birth defects are diagnosed after a baby leaves the hospital. Many birth defects are not found immediately at birth. Some birth defects like cleft lip or spina bifida are easy to see. Others, like heart defects, are not.
Fact #3: Some birth defects can be diagnosed before birth. Tests like an ultrasound and amniocentesis can detect birth defects such as spina bifida, heart defects, or Down syndrome before a baby is born. Prenatal care and screening are important because early diagnosis allows families to make decisions and plan for the future.
Fact #4: Birth defects can greatly affect the finances not only of the families involved, but of everyone. In the United States, birth defects have accounted for over 139,000 hospital stays during a single year, resulting in $2.5 billion in hospital costs alone. Families and the government share the burden of these costs. Additional costs due to lost wages or occupational limitations can affect families as well.
Fact #5: Some birth defects can be prevented. A woman can take some important steps before and during pregnancy to help prevent birth defects. She can take folic acid; have regular medical checkups; make sure medical conditions, such as diabetes, are under control; have tests for infectious diseases and get necessary vaccinations; and not use cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs.
Lynda Metz is the Director of Community Development at Bonner General Hospital. The information in this article was provided by the Centers for Disease Control.