Birth Defects Still Common in the U.S.; 1 out of 33 Newborns has a Birth Defect

Modified: May 17, 2016 11:33am

Latest News


Infograph of stats relating to birth defects


From the Office of the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Gale R. Burstein

Date January 12, 2016

CONTACT: Mary C. St. Mary/Mary.StMary@Erie.Gov

Phone: 716.858.4941/ Mobile: 716.253.3925

Birth Defects Still Common in the U.S.

1 out of 33 Newborns Has a Birth Defect

ERIE COUNTY, NY— January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, a nationwide effort to raise awareness of birth defects, their causes, and their impact.  Birth defects are common, costly, and critical conditions that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), affect one in every 33 U.S. newborns annually. They are the leading cause of infant deaths, accounting for 20% of all infant deaths. They are also extremely costly; according to the March of Dimes, the average medical cost for a healthy baby is $4,389, and for a premature baby $54,194.

“Women can reduce their risk of having a baby born with a birth defect by making healthy choices and adopting healthy habits before and during pregnancy,” said Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Commissioner of Health. “Many different types of birth defects exist that can affect babies before, during or immediately after birth.” For many babies born with a birth defect, there is no family history of the condition. By understanding the known (and possible) causes of birth defects, it is hoped that more mothers-to-be will take the necessary precautions, such as taking recommended amounts of Folic Acid, and avoid identified risks such as smoking, drinking, or using “street” drugs during pregnancy.” Some of the known risks include:

  • Medication use before and during pregnancy; including prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary or herbal supplements
  • Obesity and poorly controlled diabetes
  • Maternal age of 34 years or greater
  • Infections during pregnancy
  • Cigarette smoking during pregnancy
  • Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (“FASDs”)

“Women can take important steps before and during pregnancy to help prevent birth defects, such as  taking folic acid; having regular medical checkups; ensuring medical conditions, such as diabetes, are under control; testing for infectious diseases and getting recommended vaccinations. Women should not use cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs, especially during pregnancy and post-partum periods.” concluded Burstein.

In addition, January 10–16, 2016, is National Folic Acid Awareness Week. CDC urges all women of childbearing age who can become pregnant to take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day to help reduce the risk for neural tube defects. Folic Acid is a B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for normal growth and development. Folic acid can be found in fortified or enriched foods, such as cereals, and supplements, and should be in conjunction with a diet rich in folate. Additional information about folic acid is available at

#  #  #

For More Information:

Erie County Department of Health

New York State Department of Health  

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—National Birth Defects Prevention Month

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—National Folic Awareness Month

Centers for Birth Defects Research and Prevention

CDC: Ten Things You Need to Know about Birth Defects

March of Dimes

Frequently Requested



Phone: (716) 858-7690

Fax: (716) 858-8701

Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH)
95 Franklin Street
Buffalo, New York 14202

ECDOH Locations