Each year in the United States, about 1 in 33 babies is born with a birth defect. Pregnant women can take steps to prevent birth defects by:
Getting enough folic acid in their diet
Not drinking, smoking, or using drugs
Staying away from cat litter
Avoiding undercooked meat
Going to the doctor for prenatal care
Birth defects are problems that happen when the baby is growing inside the mother’s body. They usually happen in the first 3 months of pregnancy. Some birth defects are caused by things in the environment (such as germs or chemicals). Other birth defects are genetic. Some examples of birth defects are Down syndrome, cleft lip or cleft palate, heart defects, and neural tube defects (problems with the baby’s brain or spine).
(Sources: National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, CDC; March of Dimes)