Birth Defects

To find patient care programs and faculty treating birth defects at Kennedy Krieger Institute, as well as research investigating this disorder, please see the right-hand column below. Additional helpful information, including definitions, symptoms, Institute press releases, Potential magazine articles, and other resources outside the Institute, have also been provided for readers on this page.

Birth Defects Overview:

Birth defects are the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States, accounting for more than 20 percent of all infant deaths. Of about 120,000 U.S. babies born each year with a birth defect, 8,000 die during their first year of life. In addition, birth defects are the fifth-leading cause of years of potential life lost, and contribute substantially to childhood morbidity and long-term disability.

Because the causes of about 70 percent of all birth defects are unknown, the public continues to be anxious about whether environmental pollutants cause birth defects, developmental disabilities or other adverse reproductive outcomes. The public also has many questions about whether various occupational hazards, dietary factors, medications and personal behaviors cause or contribute to birth defects.

Although one in 33 babies in the U.S. has a birth defect, there are many different types of birth defects and each individual defect is rare. For example, spina bifida affects about one of every 4,000 babies, and Holoprosencephaly affects about one of every 1,000 babies. It is necessary to study each defect separately to learn more about the causes of birth defects because different factors may cause each type of defect.

Examples, Subsets and Synonyms for Birth Defects -- Congenital Anomalies:

  • Spina Bifida
  • Caudal Regression Syndrome
  • Craniofacial Anomalies