Birth Defects Fact Sheets

birth defectsWhile there are thousands of different birth defects, the most common are heart defects, cleft lip and cleft palate, Down syndrome and spina bifida. Approximately 150,000 children are born every year in the United States affected by one or more birth defects, according to the American Pregnancy Association

The CDC reports that one in every 33 babies (about 3 percent) is born with a birth defect, and that birth defects are one of the leading causes of infant deaths, accounting for more than 20 percent of all infant deaths. Causes vary, including the use of alcohol, street drugs, and prescription drugs, being exposed to various infections such as cytomegalovirus or sexually transmitted infections. Genetic conditions can also be passed from parent to child.

Information about Specific Birth Defects

The CDC has great information on many birth defects which you may find useful in your center at the following links:

cmvimageCytomegalovirus (CMV) Disease: The Congenital Disease Mothers Don't Know About

The following information is also found at the CDC site:

CMV is the most common congenital (present at birth) viral infection in the U.S. Each year, about 5,500 (1 in 750) children in this country are born with or develop disabilities that result from congenital CMV infection. More children have disabilities due to this disease than other well-known congenital infections and syndromes, including Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, spina bifida, and pediatric HIV/AIDS.

CMV is spread from person to person by close contact with body fluids, such as blood, urine, saliva, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. Once CMV is in a person's body, it stays there for life. Most people who become infected with CMV have mild, flu-like symptoms or no symptoms at all; the exceptions are infants with congenital infection or people who have weakened immune systems.

For pregnant women, sexual contact is a common source of CMV infection. Limiting sexual partners and practicing safe sex may reduce the risk of catching CMV.

Another common source of infection for pregnant women is contact with the urine or saliva of young children who are infected with CMV and are shedding the virus.