Many Birth Defects are Preventable

May 9, 2018

What could be worse than being informed as an expectant parent that your child may be born with a birth defect that could cripple them or remain with them the rest of their natural lives. Experts say there’s a lot an expectant mother can do nowadays to do to reduce a child’s risk for developing a birth defect, and that being pro-active and preventive-minded will give them an early edge.

“Women of reproductive age should be cognizant of the fact they need to be healthy,” said Dr. Michael Katz, senior vice president for research and global programs at the March of Dimes, a pediatrics professor emeritus at Columbia University and a consultant to New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. “They should be living a healthy lifestyle anyway. It’s not an extra chore. It’s a good lifestyle.”1

Birth Defects in the United States

Many Birth Defects Preventable

Many Birth Defects are Preventable

Nearly 1-in-3 babies born in the U.S. has some form of birth defect, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most common birth defects occur in the first three months of pregnancy and involve some kind of structural, biochemical, or functional deformity. The most common birth defect is heart abnormalities that occur in one-fourth to one-third of all birth defects. Heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, because of the complexity of the of the organ.

Heart defects occur in about 1 out of every 100 to 200 babies, according to the CDC. Perhaps the most often cited heart birth defect is what’s known as an atrial septal defect, which is a hole in the heart.

The following are the national estimates for the major birth defects reported from 2004 to 2006, according to the CDC:

Birth Defects Cases per Births Estimated Annual Number of Cases
Anencephaly 1 in 4,900 860
Spina bifida (without anencephaly) 1 in 2,900 1,500
Encephalocele 1 in 12,200 340
Anophthalmia/microphthalmia 1 in 5,350 780
Common truncus (a.k.a. Truncus arteriosus 1 in 13,900 300
Transposition of great arteries 1 in 3,300 1,250
Tetralogy of Fallot 1 in 2,500 1,660
Atrioventricular septal defect 1 in 2,120 1,970
Hypoplastic left heart syndrome 1 in 4,350 960
Cleft palate without cleft lip 1 in 1,575 2,650
Cleft lip with or without cleft palate 1 in 940 4,440
Esophageal atresia/tracheoesophageal fistula 1 in 4,600  905


Rectal and large intestinal atresia/stenosis 1 in 2,140 1,950
Reduction deformity, upper limbs 1 in 2,870 1,450
Reduction deformity, lower limbs 1 in 6,000 700
Gastroschisis 1 in 2,230 1,870
Omphalocele 1 in 5,390 775
Diaphragmatic hernia 1 in 3,840 1,100
Trisomy 13 1 in 7,900 530
Trisomy 18 1 in 3,760 1,110
Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) 1 in 700 6,040

Birth Defect Prevention

According to the March of Dimes, medical researchers have determined that environmental factors play a big role in heart defects, and cleft lips and palates. Controlling obesity and diabetes are important in providing a healthy prenatal condition for expectant mothers. Women wanting to give birth or expectant mothers should be taking at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, which has shown to help prevent neural tube defects.

Causes of Birth Defects

Many factors can lead to birth defects. Women over the age of 35 stand a greater chance at having babies born with some form of Trisomy or Down Syndrome than women who are younger. Genetic factors also play a role in handing down possible birth defects. Women taking certain prescription drugs during a pregnancy can increase the chance of a baby’s birth defects. The following is a list of some prescription drugs that have been shown to cause birth defects:

  • Accutane
  • Crestor
  • Cytotec
  • Lamictal
  • Lexapro
  • Paxil
  • Soriatane
  • Terbutaline

What Constitutes Birth-Related Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice with regard to birth defects is a legitimate reason for filling a negligence lawsuit when one of the following conditions exist:

  • Mother or baby are injured during pregnancy or labor/delivery
  • When the mother or parents would have aborted the pregnancy, if they had known about the defect (wrongful birth)
  • When the mother or parents’ try and abort a pregnancy, but it fails (wrongful pregnancy)
  • Injury due to excessive loss of maternal blood post-delivery
  • Injury due to failure to monitor baby’s oxygen intake before, during, and after delivery

Contact a Portland Birth Defects Attorney at the Savage Law Firm

Was your baby misdiagnosed with a birth defect or did your baby receive a birth defect as a result of negligence? If so, you can rely on a Portland birth defects attorney at the Savage Law Firm to help you aggressive seek compensation for damages. For a free initial consultation, call us at 503-222-0200 (in Portland) or at 206-957-7272 (in Seattle). You can also email us using the form on this page. We represent clients in communities in both Oregon and Washington from our offices in Portland and Seattle.


1“Experts Believe Many Birth Defects Are Preventable” published in, July 2010.

Categories: Birth Injuries, Malpractice, Personal Injuries