State Agencies | Online Services

Preventing Birth Defects


  • Every 4 ½ minutes a baby is born with a birth defect.
  • One in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect.
  • Birth defects are the leading cause of infant deaths in Ohio and the United States.

mother baby

A birth defect is a condition present at birth that causes structural or biochemical changes in one or more parts of the body.  Birth defects may be inherited or environmentally induced.   The incidence of birth defects is a serious problem that impacts the health and development of many Ohio babies and their families on a daily basis.  For some birth defects, the cause is known, but for most birth defects the causes are still unknown.  Recent discoveries, such as the importance of knowing family health history, consuming adequate levels of folic acid, eliminating alcohol intake during pregnancy, and avoiding toxic exposures in the workplace,  highlight important steps that can be taken to improve individual health,  as well as to reduce the risk of birth defects in future pregnancies.  Still, many in the general public, many women of childbearing age and even some health care professionals remain uninformed or misinformed about the impact that prevention efforts can have on improving pregnancy outcomes.
Various national initiatives have emerged encouraging states to both establish prevention programs to reduce the occurrence of birth defects and to promote early intervention programs to prevent secondary disabilities associated with birth defects in children.   In response to these needs, the Ohio Partners for Birth Defects Prevention (OPBDP) was formed in 2004.    The group was established through a partnership agreement between the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and the March of Dimes, Ohio Chapter.  Originally a Birth Defects Prevention (BDP) Handbook was created as a tool to train about the known causes of and prevention strategies for birth defects.  The handbook has now been adapted into this Web-based resource to help increase awareness about preventable birth defects and what can be done to prevent or reduce the incidence of birth defects in Ohio. 


It is also important to note that, despite the best maternal health, quality prenatal care and preventive steps taken on the part of parents and their health providers, not all birth defects can be prevented.  Therefore, it is essential to do the best possible with the information available to assure the highest quality of life through available primary and secondary prevention measures.  People with special needs make important contributions to society.  Disability is a natural part of the human experience and people with disabilities who live among us make immeasurable contributions to our culture as a whole. This is the philosophy that underlies the activities of the OPBDP and enhances OPBDP’s prevention efforts. 

Medical science is far from finished with the job of identifying the causes, treatments, cures and prevention strategies for all birth defects.  Nevertheless, significant strides have been made in the field of birth defects prevention.  Everyone is encouraged to use the birth defects prevention information presented here to generate discussions with their health care providers, and work towards improving individual health status as well as the health of future generations.  

Birth Defects Affect Us All.
What Affect Will You Have on Birth Defects?

Learn more about birth defects.  Visit and

Mailing Address:
Ohio Department of Health
Children with Medical Handicaps Program (BCMH)
Ohio Connections for Children with Special Needs Birth Defects Information System
246 North High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215

Telephone: (614) 466-1549

Last Updated: 6/24/14