Birth defects are conditions that happen when a baby does not develop normally during pregnancy. Conditions include structural defects like missing limbs, malformed hearts, spina bifida, and genetic conditions like Down syndrome.
Birth defects affect about one in every 33 babies born each year in the United States. In Florida, more than 8,000 babies are born with major birth defects each year. Scientists believe most birth defects are caused by a complex mix of factors including our genes, behaviors, and environment. However, the causes of most birth defects are unknown. The public remains concerned about the role of our environment and birth defects, but few exposures have been well studied.
Birth defects are one of the leading causes of infant deaths, and babies born with birth defects have a greater chance of illness and long term disability. The cost of lifetime care for infants born in a single year with one or more of 17 severe birth defects has been estimated at $6 billion.