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birth defects
mental retardation
spina bifida
structural birth defects

the problem of birth defects

baby with cleft lipBirth defectsconditions resulting from abnormal prenatal developmentpose a significant public health problem. They are:

1 in 33 babies is born with structural birth defectslike missing limbs, malformed hearts and spina bifida. About 1% of all school-age children have mental retardation. This risk is much higher in infants with birth defects.

Birth defects and mental retardation are major causes of disability. Over a lifetime, medical care and special education for a single child can cost over $500,000.

More than 1 in 3 babies who dies has structural birth defects, the leading cause of infant mortality in California and the US.

Parents of all ages, races, education levels and from all geographic areas have babies with structural birth defects and mental retardation.

The causes of most birth defects are unknown. The environment remains a source of great public concern, but very few exposures have been well studied.

Research to find causes is substantially underfunded. The federal budget for birth defects research is a fraction of the amount devoted to less common problems.

shattered dreams

The war against birth defects is really a search for peace... parents' peace of mind. But we're losing the battle: every 5 minutes in the US, another child is born with structural birth defects. Here are some images from the front lines:

bullet In the delivery room, shocked silence follows a doctor's announcement that the newborn has a spinal defect.
bullet A young couple struggles to pay medical bills for their son's heart surgery, his third in 2 years.
bullet Seeing herself in the mirror, a teenage girl cries over the permanent scars of her repaired cleft lip.
bullet A physical therapist congratulates a small boy for his hard work as she straps him into his wheelchair.
bullet Grandparents place a toy by the grave of their first grandchild, who died 3 days after birth.

To be born healthy... this should be every baby's birthright. Only when armed with knowledgeabout the still undiscovered causes of birth defectscan expectant parents put their fears to rest.

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