Birth Defects
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Birth Defects and the Environment

Although most babies are born healthy and free of birth defects, there are many types of possible defects. On this website, we have information for 12 important birth defects that have some relationship to environmental or controllable factors. Avoiding these known or suspected exposures and behaviors before and while pregnant can help to increase the chances of having a healthy infant, although the majority of birth defects happen for unknown reasons. Potential risk factors include:

In addition, a mother's exposure to certain chemicals and pollution may increase the risk of birth defects. A pregnant woman may be exposed to chemicals through breathing, eating or drinking food or water that contains chemicals, or absorption through the skin. These chemicals can then pass through the placenta and into the fetus's bloodstream. A fetus' development may be more susceptible to these environmental exposures during the first trimester. This is the most sensitive time in pregnancy, when the organs and limbs are formed.

Important pollutants to avoid include: