Children's Hospital Colorado

10 Things to Know About Birth Defects

A woman wearing a white dress holds an ultrasound of her baby.

At Children's Hospital Colorado's Colorado Fetal Care Center, we aim to provide awareness and information regarding birth defects, as well as available treatments. Take a look at the top 10 things you should know about birth defects.

  1. A congenital birth defect is a structural abnormality of the baby present at birth. Some common examples include cleft lip and palate, club foot and spina bifida.
  2. Birth defects complicate 3% to 5% of all pregnancies, which our maternal fetal medicine doctors specialize in. The cause can sometimes be genetic or environmental. However, sometimes the cause is unknown.
  3. The most common birth defects are congenital heart defects, or CHDs. CHDs affect nearly 1 out of every 100 births.
  4. Some birth defects have a genetic cause, which means there is a problem with the DNA. Prenatal genetic screening and testing and our expert genetic counselors can help you understand what this means for your family. Genetic defects can be inherited from the parents or caused by new changes only present in the baby.
  5. Regular prenatal care and ultrasound can help detect some birth defects early in pregnancy. Prenatal care should start in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
  6. Some birth defects can be treated surgically with an operation called fetal surgery, while the baby is still inside the uterus.
  7. Our Colorado Fetal Care Center is at the forefront of new treatments for many birth defects.
  8. Healthy habits prior to pregnancy can prevent some birth defects and improve pregnancy outcomes. This includes a balanced diet, stopping smoking and alcohol, and good control of maternal health conditions, such as diabetes.
  9. Vaccination before pregnancy can prevent some infections that can cause birth defects.
  10. Folic acid, a common supplement found in prenatal vitamins, when taken prior to pregnancy and through the first month of gestation, can reduce your risk of spina bifida, and other brain and spinal defects.

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