FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE               Connecticut Department of Public Health

January 9, 2008                                           William Gerrish

                                                                    (860) 509-7270



Hartford – In an effort to increase awareness during National Birth Defect Prevention Month, the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) urges expectant mothers to learn about preventing birth defects.  This year’s national theme focuses on preventing infections during pregnancy.


Infections in pregnancy contribute to the number of preventable birth defects that occur each year.  Pregnant women are still susceptible to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) during their pregnancy and the consequences may not only affect the mother, but the baby as well.  While some infections have been associated with birth defects, others have been linked to additional serious outcomes for mothers and infants including uterine infection, miscarriage, premature labor, or stillbirth. 


“Being infected with a sexually transmitted disease during pregnancy can result in a number of health problems, including death, ” said DPH Commissioner J. Robert Galvin, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A.  “It is very important that pregnant mothers take the proper precautions to prevent sexually transmitted infections during their pregnancy not only for their own health, but for their baby’s health too.” 


To decrease the chances of contracting an STI during pregnancy, pregnant women should use condoms during intercourse, know their partner(s), limit the number of partners they have, and have themselves and their partner(s) tested for STIs if they are sexually active during the pregnancy.


Birth defects are the leading cause of death in the first year of life.  About 120,000 babies (one in 33) in the United States are born each year with birth defects.  A birth defect is an abnormality of structure, function or metabolism (body chemistry) present at birth that results in physical or mental disabilities or death. Birth defects can be caused by genetic or environmental factors, or by a combination of both. (March of Dimes)


While not all birth defects can be prevented, women can increase their chances of having a healthy baby.  DPH and the National Birth Defects Prevention Network encourage all pregnant women and those who could become pregnant to:

·        consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily;

·        know their family history;

·        have a check-up from a health care provider prior to conception;

·        seek reproductive genetic counseling, if appropriate;

·        manage chronic maternal illnesses such as diabetes, seizure disorders, lupus or phenylketonuria (PKU);

·        avoid alcohol, nicotine, and illicit drugs;

·        ensure that prescription medication and herbal supplements are safe at the time of conception and during early pregnancy;

·        avoid harmful occupational and environmental exposures; and,

·        ensure protection against domestic violence.


The DPH monitors birth defects through the Connecticut Birth Defects Registry (CTBDR), a passive surveillance system developed to collect information about birth defects that occur among state residents.  The mission of the CTBDR is to: (1) maintain statewide surveillance through collecting information on birth defects in Connecticut; (2) monitor trends and patterns in birth defects; (3) conduct analyses to identify risk factors for birth defects; and (4) promote education activities for the prevention of birth defects.


For more information on birth defects, please call the Department of Public Health at (860) 509-8074 or visit the following websites:


  • Connecticut Department of Public Health


  • The National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disability at CDC


  • March of Dimes


  • National Birth Defects Prevention Network


The Connecticut Department of Public Health is the state’s leader in public health policy and advocacy with a mission to protect and promote the health and safety of the people of our state.  To contact the department, please visit its website at or call (860) 509-7270.