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Common Causes of Birth Defects During Pregnancy

Understanding Your Rights If Your Child Was Born with a Birth Defect

Birth defects are common, affecting nearly 120,000 babies every year. When a child is born with a congenital defect or deformity, parents often wonder why trying to pinpoint the cause. According to the March of Dimes, about 40% of birth deformities result from genetic, environmental factors, or toxic medications taken during pregnancy.

At The Beasley Firm, we have over 60 years of experience helping families recover compensation when their child suffers an injury prior to, during, or immediately after birth. If another party was responsible for your infant’s birth defect, you might be entitled to compensation. Contact our office at for a free case evaluation.

Birth Defects Caused by Genetics

Genetics may be the cause of some birth defects. A genetic cause of a birth defect happens when one or both parents pass an inherited defective gene or missing gene onto the developing baby. Some of the more common birth defects that are inherited or genetic include Cystic Fibrosis, Tay – Sachs Disease, and Fragile X Syndrome.

Chromosomal abnormalities can also result in birth defects or certain syndromes. If there is a disruption or damage to chromosomes that lead to either too many or not enough chromosomes, it could lead to a birth defect. Trisomy 13 or Down’s syndrome occurs when there is an extra chromosome.

Birth Defects Caused by Infections and Environmental Factors

When there is no chromosomal or genetic explanation for a child’s syndrome or birth abnormality, physicians may look at other potential causes of your child’s birth defect, developmental delays, neurologic problems, or cerebral palsy.

There are scientific studies that link certain infections, chemicals, or toxic substances to the development of congenital disabilities.

Some of the more common environmental factors that can lead to a birth defect are:

  • Infections during pregnancy such as Rubella (German Measles), toxoplasmosis, and cytomegalovirus (CMV)
  • Alcohol consumption that can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
  • Insecticide exposure
  • Radiation and x-rays
  • Petroleum products or distillates
  • Heavy metal ingestion such as lead, gold, or mercury
  • Cleaning solutions
  • Paint or solvents
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)

At times, pregnant mothers may be unaware that they have been exposed to certain toxic environmental causes of birth defects during their pregnancy because the toxins or poisons could be hidden in contaminated soil, locally grown fruits and vegetables, groundwater, well water, or in the air.

Dangerous Environments for Pregnant Women

Working in certain occupations or industries can also expose a pregnant mother to chemicals, solutions, or solvents that can cause birth defects.

Some workplaces that may expose the growing fetus to hazardous chemicals are:

  • Nail salons
  • Car or Automotive repair garages
  • Dry Cleaners
  • Paint factories
  • Printing places
  • Metal cleaning facilities
  • Agriculture
  • Beauty salons

It is important to note that birth defects are different from birth injuries. Birth injuries happen during the labor and delivery process and are generally the result of healthcare provider negligence or medical malpractice. On the other hand, birth defects may be caused by genetics, infections during pregnancy, environmental toxins, medications, and several other factors.

Birth Defects Caused by Medications

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a baby is born with a birth defect every 4 ½ minutes in the United States. In some cases, the cause of the birth defect may be due to a prescribed medication the mother was taking during pregnancy.

Common medications or drugs that have been linked to birth defects or deformities at birth are:

  • Zoloft (sertraline) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) manufactured and sold by Pfizer. It is used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorders, and anxiety disorders. Studies indicate that women who took Zoloft or other SSRI medications during pregnancy, especially the third trimester, were at a greater risk of having a baby with a birth defect.
  • Topamax (topiramate) is a medication used to treat seizures associated with epilepsy and prevent migraine headaches. It is also used off-label to treat several conditions, including obesity and bipolar disorder. Research indicates that taking Topamax during pregnancy may increase a baby’s risk of being born with a cleft lip or cleft palate.
  • Depakote or valproic acid is used to treat seizures, mania, bipolar disease, manic-depressive disorder, and migraine headaches. A woman who takes Depakote during the first trimester of pregnancy may have an increased risk of having a baby with spina bifida, atrial septal defect, cleft palate, hypospadias, polydactyly, and craniosynostosis.
  • Lexapro is an antidepressant that is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) manufactured by Forest Laboratories, which is pharmacologically very similar to Celexa (citalopram). Studies have shown that taking Lexapro during pregnancy has an increased risk for multiple birth defects, including heart defects, persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), and spina bifida.
  • Accutane (isotretinoin) is a medication used to treat acne. Accutane in any amount is dangerous to a fetus and comes with an extremely high risk that severe birth defects will result.

Other medications that have been linked to neural tube defects or spina bifida are medications that block or prevent folic acid from being converted into its active metabolites.

Medications such as trimethoprim, sulfasalazine, or Methotrexate are known to block the conversion of folic acid. They can cause spinal cord birth defects if taken early on in the pregnancy when the spinal column is forming.

Get the Compassionate Representation You Deserve

If your child was born with a birth defect, you might be entitled to compensation. Contact our office to discuss your case with an experienced attorney. Our nationally-recognized legal team will help determine if you have a valid claim for damages. Call our office at (215) 918-7390 to get started.

Understanding Your Rights If Your Child Was Born with a Birth Defect

Birth defects are common, affecting nearly 120,000 babies every year. When a child is born with a congenital defect or deformity, parents often wonder why trying to pinpoint the cause. According to the March of Dimes, about 40% of birth deformities result from genetic, environmental factors, or toxic medications taken during pregnancy.

At The Beasley Firm, we have over 60 years of experience helping families recover compensation when their child suffers an injury prior to, during, or immediately after birth. If another party was responsible for your infant’s birth defect, you might be entitled to compensation. Contact our office at (215) 918-7390 for a free case evaluation.

Birth Defects Caused by Genetics

Genetics may be the cause of some birth defects. A genetic cause of a birth defect happens when one or both parents pass an inherited defective gene or missing gene onto the developing baby. Some of the more common birth defects that are inherited or genetic include Cystic Fibrosis, Tay – Sachs Disease, and Fragile X Syndrome.

Chromosomal abnormalities can also result in birth defects or certain syndromes. If there is a disruption or damage to chromosomes that lead to either too many or not enough chromosomes, it could lead to a birth defect. Trisomy 13 or Down’s syndrome occurs when there is an extra chromosome.

Birth Defects Caused by Infections and Environmental Factors

When there is no chromosomal or genetic explanation for a child’s syndrome or birth abnormality, physicians may look at other potential causes of your child’s birth defect, developmental delays, neurologic problems, or cerebral palsy.

There are scientific studies that link certain infections, chemicals, or toxic substances to the development of congenital disabilities.

Some of the more common environmental factors that can lead to a birth defect are:

  • Infections during pregnancy such as Rubella (German Measles), toxoplasmosis, and cytomegalovirus (CMV)
  • Alcohol consumption that can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
  • Insecticide exposure
  • Radiation and x-rays
  • Petroleum products or distillates
  • Heavy metal ingestion such as lead, gold, or mercury
  • Cleaning solutions
  • Paint or solvents
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)

At times, pregnant mothers may be unaware that they have been exposed to certain toxic environmental causes of birth defects during their pregnancy because the toxins or poisons could be hidden in contaminated soil, locally grown fruits and vegetables, groundwater, well water, or in the air.

Dangerous Environments for Pregnant Women

Working in certain occupations or industries can also expose a pregnant mother to chemicals, solutions, or solvents that can cause birth defects.

Some workplaces that may expose the growing fetus to hazardous chemicals are:

  • Nail salons
  • Car or Automotive repair garages
  • Dry Cleaners
  • Paint factories
  • Printing places
  • Metal cleaning facilities
  • Agriculture
  • Beauty salons

It is important to note that birth defects are different from birth injuries. Birth injuries happen during the labor and delivery process and are generally the result of healthcare provider negligence or medical malpractice. On the other hand, birth defects may be caused by genetics, infections during pregnancy, environmental toxins, medications, and several other factors.

Birth Defects Caused by Medications

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a baby is born with a birth defect every 4 ½ minutes in the United States. In some cases, the cause of the birth defect may be due to a prescribed medication the mother was taking during pregnancy.

Common medications or drugs that have been linked to birth defects or deformities at birth are:

  • Zoloft (sertraline) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) manufactured and sold by Pfizer. It is used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorders, and anxiety disorders. Studies indicate that women who took Zoloft or other SSRI medications during pregnancy, especially the third trimester, were at a greater risk of having a baby with a birth defect.
  • Topamax (topiramate) is a medication used to treat seizures associated with epilepsy and prevent migraine headaches. It is also used off-label to treat several conditions, including obesity and bipolar disorder. Research indicates that taking Topamax during pregnancy may increase a baby’s risk of being born with a cleft lip or cleft palate.
  • Depakote or valproic acid is used to treat seizures, mania, bipolar disease, manic-depressive disorder, and migraine headaches. A woman who takes Depakote during the first trimester of pregnancy may have an increased risk of having a baby with spina bifida, atrial septal defect, cleft palate, hypospadias, polydactyly, and craniosynostosis.
  • Lexapro is an antidepressant that is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) manufactured by Forest Laboratories, which is pharmacologically very similar to Celexa (citalopram). Studies have shown that taking Lexapro during pregnancy has an increased risk for multiple birth defects, including heart defects, persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), and spina bifida.
  • Accutane (isotretinoin) is a medication used to treat acne. Accutane in any amount is dangerous to a fetus and comes with an extremely high risk that severe birth defects will result.

Other medications that have been linked to neural tube defects or spina bifida are medications that block or prevent folic acid from being converted into its active metabolites.

Medications such as trimethoprim, sulfasalazine, or Methotrexate are known to block the conversion of folic acid. They can cause spinal cord birth defects if taken early on in the pregnancy when the spinal column is forming.

Get the Compassionate Representation You Deserve

If your child was born with a birth defect, you might be entitled to compensation. Contact our office to discuss your case with an experienced attorney. Our nationally-recognized legal team will help determine if you have a valid claim for damages. Call our office to get started.

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