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frequently asked questions

How do you interpret results?

Study findings are reported as changes in risk for exposed pregnancies compared to unexposed.

bullet Higher risks—a doubling or more—suggest an association between the exposure and a specific condition. This may mean the studied exposure (or a closely related exposure or factor) contributes to the birth defect.
bullet Decreased risks—one half or less—indicate a protective effect.
bullet No change in risk implies the exposure and defect are not closely related.

Many other factors can influence results, however. For this reason, additional studies are always needed to confirm and clarify research findings.

picture of babyWhy do you use estimates for county data?

Most counties have relatively small numbers of births. When dealing with statistics, smaller numbers generally yield less precise information. Therefore, estimates can provide a more accurate prediction of birth defects' impact.

I think there are more birth defects than there should be in my area. What does that mean?

Birth defects are more common than most people realize, occurring in 1 in 33 births. Many factors can influence how many babies are identified with birth defects:

Demographics—the proportion of mothers with higher or lower risk

Prenatal diagnosis and pregnancy termination

Access to health care services and medical specialists.

Rarely, environmental conditions are linked to birth defects increases—to substantiate this, we need to see very high rates (10 times more than expected) in the same or closely related conditions.

Are birth defects being caused by environmental conditions in my area?

Questions like this cannot be answered simply by looking at local rates. The only way to determine if environmental exposures are linked to birth defects is to examine them in large-scale scientific studies with detailed exposure information. Most environmental exposures are not confined to a single area. By combining data from women statewide, our studies provide the statistical precision to tease out the oftensubtle effects of specific exposures or risk factors.

My child has a birth defect. Do the Program's findings apply to our family?

Because research findings are based on pooled data, they apply to "average" persons rather than any specific individual or family. Your physician or a genetic counselor can assess your personal situation and risk through detailed medical, pregnancy and family histories. Physical examination and possibly genetic/other testing may also shed light on your circumstances. Based on your unique findings, your health care provider can address possible causes of your child's birth defect.

bullet March of Dimes Foundation
bullet Find a genetic counselor
bullet Find birth defects support groups
- Genetic Alliance
- National Organization for Rare
- Online Support Groups
bullet Glossary of birth defects and scientific terminology




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