Other Preventable Causes


It’s never a bad time to quit smoking, but pregnancy is doubtlessly the best time to do so. According to the CDC, smoking during pregnancy can cause:

  • Birth defects
  • Premature birth
  • Infant death

Here’s a graphic from the CDC illustrating the problems that can result from smoking during pregnancy.

The dangers posed by smoking actually begin about a month before conception — and they don’t end at childbirth. Secondhand smoke is a risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, and exposure to smoke weakens a child’s lungs and increases the likelihood of asthma, infections and other health problems.


Pregnant women should not drink alcohol — at all. Drinking during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorder – a tragic and completely preventable condition that severely damages, or ends, the life of a newborn baby. According to the CDC, a baby born to a mother who drank alcohol during pregnancy might exhibit:

  • Abnormal facial features (including a ridge between the nose and lip known as the philtrum)
  • A small head
  • Learning disabilities
  • Speech problems
  • Poor coordination
  • Vision or hearing problems

In addition to this condition, drinking may also cause birth defects of the:

  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Bones

There is no safe time during pregnancy to drink, nor is there a safe alcoholic beverage for a pregnant woman. To be certain, you should stop drinking and smoking as soon as you work towards becoming pregnant.

Illegal Drugs

This one ought to be a no-brainer. A baby is exposed to everything a pregnant mother puts into her body. If it can harm an adult like yourself — which drugs doubtlessly can do – is it any surprise that it can harm an unborn baby whose body is not prepared to defend itself?


The risk of having a child with a birth defect increases if diabetes is not properly maintained during pregnancy,according to the CDC. It can also pose serious health problems for the mother.

A baby’s organs develop in approximately the first two months of pregnancy, which is before many women realize they are carrying a child. This is why you should always keep your blood sugar in control, especially if you intend to become pregnant. Unstable blood sugar can affect organ development, leading to congenital defects of the:

  • Brain
  • Spine
  • Heart

In addition to birth defects, other problems that can occur due to uncontrolled diabetes during pregnancy include:

  • High birth weight
  • Premature birth
  • High blood pressure in the mother, which can endanger the baby
  • Miscarriage or stillbirth


In addition to certain medications and the causes above, age can also play a role in birth defects. Mothers over 35 are more likely to have a baby with a birth defect or other complications. It is unfortunate, but true.