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MN Officials Say Most Common Birth Defects are Congenital Heart Defects

January 25, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. - January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, and this year features a special focus on congenital heart defects.

Those are the most common type, according to Kristin Oehlke, supervisor of the Minnesota Department of Health's birth-defects monitoring and analysis program.

"Almost 1 percent of all pregnancies of babies that are born have a congenital heart defect. Some are less serious than others, but they all require medical attention."

A woman who is pregnant or likely to become pregnant can take a number of steps to cut the risk of birth defects, Oehlke says.

"Things like taking a multivitamin every day. We also want people to limit exposure to toxic chemicals, cigarette smoke or alcohol. All of those things can prevent all types of birth defects, including congenital heart defects."

Another key in cutting the risk of birth defects, Oehlke says, is regular prenatal visits, especially if the expecting mother already is dealing with other health problems.

"If she has any chronic illnesses like diabetes, or she's taking medication for a seizure disorder, she needs to confer with her care provider to figure out the best way of managing a pregnancy in light of that condition."

Some congenital heart defects have a minor and brief impact on a baby's health, while others can have very serious, lifelong effects.

More information is online at

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN