Facts about Birth Defects

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How often do birth defects occur?

Each year over 2,000 babies in Minnesota, and an estimated 150,000 babies nationwide, will be born with serious birth defects. Birth defects are the leading cause of death in children less than one year of age, causing one in every five deaths.


What are the causes?

Approximately 20% of birth defects may be attributed to genetic factors, another 10% attributed to environmental factors (including drug or alcohol use, infections, or exposure to certain medications or other chemicals), and the causes of the remaining 70% are currently unknown or are only partially understood.


What are the costs?

The estimated lifetime cost to care for children born in the US with one of 17 common birth defects exceeds $8 billion nationally (Pew Environmental Health Commission Reports.
Healthy from the Start: Why America Needs a Better System to Track and Understand Birth Defects and the Environment (PDF 10 pages/32KB).

The total lifetime care costs to Minnesota of 12 selected birth defects has been estimated to be $131 million.
State–by–state cost of birth defects. Abstract. 1992. JA Harris, L James. Teratology. Vol 56, Issue 1–2, pg, 11–16. (PDF: 648KB/6 pages)

The lifetime medical costs to society for just one child with spina bifida can exceed $636,000.
Reevaluating the Benefits of Folic Acid Fortification in the United States: Economic Analysis, Regulation, and Public Health. Abstract .


CDC facts about birth defects

Learn more about birth defects facts, prevention, causes and risk factors, diagnosis, specific birth defects and living with a birth defect, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Facts about Birth Defects website.


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