A birth defect refers to health problems that occur in fetuses with approximately 1 in 33 babies suffering from them in the US. Birth defects causes and symptoms occur within the first 3 months of pregnancy while the fetus’ organs are still forming. They can be the result of genetics, lifestyle choices and behaviors of the mother, exposure to pollutants and certain medications, infections that occur during pregnancy and any combination of these.
All pregnant women are at some risk of delivering a child that has a birth defect. As well as heritable genetic predispositions which cannot be prevented, the risk of defects can increase as a result of certain behaviors by the mother including smoking cigarettes, using illegal drugs and drinking alcohol during the pregnancy. Environmental factors, such as being exposed to toxic chemicals or viruses during pregnancy, can also significantly increase the risk of birth defects in a child.