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Birth defects

If you have concerns about medications and other exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding, please contact the MothertoBaby Utah Program.
Call +1 (801) 328-2229 (Salt Lake area)
Or +1 (800) 822-2229 (Outside of Salt Lake area)
Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 children born in the United States annually (CDC, 2019). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes major birth defects as "structural changes in one or more parts of the body . . . [that] are present at birth . . . [and] can have a serious, adverse effect on the health, development, or functional ability of the baby."

To learn more about specific birth defects, visit the CDC Birth Defects website.
Birth defects are common, costly and serious conditions.
Understanding the occurrence of birth defects is important because:
  • The effects of birth defects can range from mild to severe and can result in debilitating illness, long-term disability, or death.
  • Birth defects are one of the leading causes of death in children younger than 1 year of age.
  • 1 in 4 infant deaths in Utah is attributable to birth defects.
  • 1 in 50 births in Utah is affected by a birth defect tracked by the Utah Birth Defects Network (UBDN).

Utah has one of the highest fertility rates in the country. Fertility rate is the average number of live births per 1,000 women within their reproductive years (ages 15-44).
Tracking and studying birth defects in Utah provides the information needed to:
  • Monitor the burden of disease locally and statewide
  • Assess services (e.g., early intervention services, health education for pregnant women, referrals for affected families, etc.)
  • Allocate resources for optimal care
  • Evaluate prevention efforts
According to the Utah Birth Defect Network, about 1 in 4 infant deaths in Utah can be attributed to birth defects.
Birth defects are the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States and other developed countries-causing 1 in every 5 deaths in children younger than 1 year of age. An embryo is the most vulnerable during the first 3 months of pregnancy when organs are first developing. However, birth defects can develop after this time period. Pregnancies affected by birth defects are more likely to result in stillbirth. Even after birth, newborns and children with birth defects have an increased risk of premature death, chronic illness, or long-term disability.
Women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant face a higher risk of having a baby with a birth defect if they:
  • Use illicit drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamines, or heroin
  • Smoke (tobacco and cannabis)
  • Drink alcohol (in any amount)
  • Have certain medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease

Additionally, studies have shown that women older than age 35 are more likely to have a child born with Down syndrome. It is important for women to assess their health and speak with their healthcare provider before becoming pregnant.
Women can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by managing health conditions and adopting healthy behaviors before becoming pregnant.
According to the CDC, the following preventive measures reduce the risk of birth defects:
  • Prenatal vitamins: Start taking a prenatal vitamin with 400mcg of folic acid at least one month before becoming pregnant. Studies show taking folic acid during pregnancy reduces the risk of birth defects in the developing fetus.
  • Substance use: Do not smoke tobacco or cannabis, drink alcohol, or use illicit drugs during your pregnancy.
  • Medication: Talk with your healthcare provider about what prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, and dietary and herbal supplements are okay to use during your pregnancy.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions such as diabetes and obesity increase the risk of birth defects. Talk with your doctor about your specific medical conditions and how to prepare for pregnancy.
  • Infection prevention: Infections can cause development abnormalities or other concerns during pregnancy. Some ways to avoid infections are regular handwashing, properly cook meats, don't eat or drink raw milk products, avoid wild animals and animal droppings, stay away from people who have infections, and get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). See the CDC's webpage for preventing infections in pregnancy for more information.

Resources


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Birth defects data query - prevalence by county


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Utah Tracking receives data regarding birth defects from the Utah Birth Defects Network (UBDN). The UBDN tracks birth defects data the following ways:
  • Reports from hospitals, labs, clinics and birthing facilities
  • Medical records abstraction
  • Data analysis

Utah administrative rule R398-5 gives the UBDN legal authority to collect information about children born in Utah who have birth defects. Under this rule, all hospitals and birthing centers located in Utah are required to report a specific set of information to the UBDN when a baby is born with a birth defect. Once the UBDN receives a report of a birth defect, a UBDN staff member visits the reporting facility and collects information from the medical records of the infant and the mother. The collected information is then entered into a secure database. Analysis is performed by an epidemiologist to identify rates, trends, risk factors, and causes. The UBDN takes great care to ensure the confidentiality and security of all collected information. All identifying information is removed from the data before analysis.

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The information provided above is from the Utah Department of Health's Center for Health Data IBIS-PH web site (http://epht.health.utah.gov). The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Sat, 01 October 2022 8:33:12 from Utah Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: http://epht.health.utah.gov ".

Content updated: Fri, 22 Jul 2022 10:32:22 MDT