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Data analysis and regression.

Making healthy living choices remain the most effective way to reduce the risk of birth defects. These choices include all women who may become or 1 Accessed on December 23, 2013 2010-2013 Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, N.J., U.S.A 2 want to become pregnant should have contact with a trusted medical professional who will assist in monitoring their health status and provide preconception care. They should be current on their immunizations and take precautions to avoid common infections. For those with type 1 or type 2 diabetes it is critical to maintain normal blood sugar levels. o Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are 100% preventable. Women who do not drink while pregnant do not have babies with FASD. o Avoidance of even seemingly benign, everyday exposures can reduce the risk for birth defects—for example, pregnant women who are exposed to cat feces during the process of changing a litter box can develop an infection called toxoplasmosis, and their infants may be born with vision problems or seizures. • The three-year backward moving averages of the overall annual birth defects rates (Figure 2) show an increasing trend from 2002 through 2009 with only one year’s average, 2008, showing decline. While there is no one clear reason for the increase in birth defects rates, several possibilities exist: there may be a true increase in birth defects rates related to familial, maternal or environmental risk factors; there may be improved birth defects surveillance; or the increase may have resulted from changes in clinical practice and awareness in coding of birth defects diagnoses or other neonatal diagnoses in hospitals. It is probable that the increase is a result of a combination of these factors. • Birth defects in general were more common among males and babies born to mothers aged 35 and older; however, this is not the case for all birth defects as several categories for women under age 20 had the highest rates. While the number of birth defects was highest for white infants, the rate for black infants was greater than the white rate for 2005-2009.