search for information spacer
search birth defects
search environmental factors
search geographic areas
birth defects the solution is research discoveries and data serving the public visitor type
home page
the solution is research
how we discover causes
the folic acid story
exposures and risk factors
genes and environment
key discoveries
who makes this possible
take our survey

some key discoveries

picture of asian babyStudy results from the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program often find their way into the news. That's because the topics are relevant in addressing the public's concerns and improving health care.


Multivitamin Use: Babies born to mothers taking multivitamins with folic acid have a lower risk for many birth defects: 50% reduced risk of isolated cleft lip with/without cleft palate, 25% decreased risk of cleft palate, 30% less risk of serious heart defects, and 36% lower risk of limb defects. (While vitamins lower risk for neural tube defects by 35% overall, less risk reduction is seen in Latinos.)

Obesity: Neural tube defects occur nearly twice as often in pregnancies of women who are obese. Taking vitamins with folic acid does not mitigate the higher risk associated with obesity. Excluding diabetics from the analysis does not alter the findings.

Smoking: Mothers who smoke double the risk for having babies with cleft lip and/or palate. Infants who inherit a specific form of the gene involved in mouth/palate development are 8 times as likely to have oral clefts if their mothers smoke.

Stressful Life Events: Women who experience at least 1 stressful event-divorce, job loss or death of someone very close-are more likely to have babies with cleft lip/palate, neural tube defects and some heart defects.


bullet Hazardous Waste Sites: Women who live within 1/4 mile of a Superfund site during the first 3 months of pregnancy may have a greater risk of having a baby with serious heart and neural tube defects.
bullet Pesticides: 75% of pregnant women are exposed to pesticides through at least 1 source, most commonly in the household. Home gardening raises risks slightly for certain types of oral clefts, neural tube defects, heart defects and limb defects. Living within 1/4 mile of agricultural crops increases the risk for neural tube defects.
bullet Nitrates: Nitrates in food does not increase risk for neural tube defects. Results for nitrates in drinking water are inconsistent, depending on the water source.
bullet Air Pollution: Exposure to 2 airborne pollutants during the second month of pregnancy increases risk for specific heart defects.


contact information