Cradle Cincinnati has a new report showing how fatal birth defects contribute to Hamilton County's infant mortality rate.
County Commission President Todd Portune and others released the information during a news conference Monday at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
"From 2012 to 2016, we lost an average of 18 babies every year to birth defects," Portune said. "That's a total of 88 babies. Or if you want to put it into terms that we can all understand, four kindergarten classrooms."
Birth defects, or congenital anomalies, include a broad group of issues ranging from chromosomal abnormalities like Down Syndrome to single gene disorders such as sickle cell anemia.
In Hamilton County, the top three birth defects resulting in death involved the heart and circulatory system, brain and nervous system, or musculoskeletal system.
Deaths due to birth defects occur in families of all socioeconomic backgrounds in Hamilton County. There is also no racial disparity in the rate of birth defect deaths.
Dr. Jim Cnota is a pediatric cardiologist at Children's. He said more research is necessary to address the problem.
"About 30 percent of all heart defects are attributed to genetic factors," Cnota said. "There is a large amount that we don't understand right now. Other conditions like cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia can run in families, but for most birth defects we don't really have a good idea of what causes them."
While not all birth defects can be prevented, families can take steps to lower the risk.
- Control diabetes during pregnancy. Poor control of diabetes during pregnancy increases the chance for birth defects and other problems.
- Take prenatal vitamins with folic acid. Folic acid can help prevent major birth defects of the developing brain and spine.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity increases a pregnant women’s risk of several serious birth defects.
- Receive a rubella vaccine before becoming pregnant. Some vaccines, like the rubella vaccine, protect women against infections that can cause birth defects.
Most birth defects are not fatal, and the vast majority of babies born with them go on to lead healthy lives.
The leading cause of infant deaths in the county is pre-term births.