UW Combined Fund Drive

December 21, 2021

Healthy Communities, Healthy Babies: Birth Defects Prevention

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines birth defects as “structural changes present at birth that can affect almost any part or parts of the body (e.g., heart, brain, foot) that may affect how the body looks, works, or both.”

Birth defects can vary from mild to severe and affect approximately 120,00 babies born each year in the United States alone. Most birth defects are identified at birth or within the first year of life. While many can be seen, such as cleft lip, others are identified through testing, such as hearing loss or heart defects.

Birth defects affect about 1 of every 33 babies born in the U.S. each year.

Birth defects can occur throughout pregnancy but are most commonly developed in the first trimester, when a fetus is developing essential organs. The cause of many kinds of birth defects is unknown, affected by a complicated mix of parental genetics, environmental factors and behavioral choices.

Babies born with birth defects are at higher risk of death and lifelong disability. Early intervention gives these babies the best chance to reach their full potential.

Healthy Communities, Healthy Babies

Though not all birth defects are preventable, the CDC has compiled tips for a successful pregnancy. Additional information about prevention is available through the¬†National Birth Defects Prevention Network, which has designated the 2022 awareness theme as “Healthy Communities, Healthy Babies.”

  • Before getting pregnant, try to live a healthy lifestyle. Being underweight, overweight, or obese increases the chances for birth defects and pregnancy complications.
  • Make sure you take folic acid everyday. Folic acid¬†is very important because when taken¬†before and during early pregnancy, it can help prevent some¬†major birth defects of the baby‚Äės brain and spine. Our bodies use this B vitamin to make new cells.
  • See a healthcare provider. Healthcare providers will be able to consult on medications, family medical history, regular prenatal care, and mental health.
  • Keep up with your vaccines. CDC¬†recommends two vaccines¬†during¬†every pregnancy: the¬†flu¬†and the¬†Tdap vaccines.
  • Avoid harmful substances to boost your health and protect the baby. Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs can cause severe problems for the developing baby and your wellbeing.
  • If you have an older home, assess your lead-based paint exposure. Although lead-based paint hasn‚Äôt been sold since the late 1970s, many older homes still have it. Exposure can lead to birth defects, miscarriage or stillbirth.
  • More tips to prevent birth defects (CDC)


Consider making a one-time contribution or setting up payroll deduction to one of our CFD member organizations working to provide support for parents and conduct research into birth defects:

Birth to Three Developmental Center (charity code 1478604): A non-profit child development program serving infants and toddlers with developmental delays and their families living in South King and Pierce Counties.

Kindering (charity code 0315445): Kindering embraces children of diverse abilities and their families by providing the finest education and therapies to nurture hope, courage, and the skills to soar.

Wonderland Kinds (charity code 1478424): is a nonprofit agency serving children with developmental delays, disabilities, and prenatal substance exposure. Founded in 1969, Wonderland is dedicated to helping children meet healthy developmental milestones.

Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Center Foundation (charity code 0496965 ): The Hospital’s mission is to ensure delivery of quality pediatric care for all children through primary and subspecialty networks, strong education and teaching programs, a diverse workforce, nationally recognized research and child advocacy.

Children’s Craniofacial Association (charity code 1481400): Children’s Craniofacial Association is empowering and giving hope to individuals and families affected by facial differences. Help us provide medical, financial, emotional, and educational support while fostering social acceptance.

Care Net Pregnancy and Family Services of Puget Sound (charity code 0316216): Offering hope by providing compassionate practical care, accurate information and life-affirming resources for needs relating to pregnancy, sexual health and abortion recovery.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho (charity code 1479680): PPGWNI provides exceptional health care, honest education and fearless advocacy to the 20 counties on the east side of WA state. PPGWNI maintains special concern for underserved, low income, adolescent and minority populations in all offered services.