Coleen Boyle, director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said birth defects account for about 20 percent of mortality in the first year of life.
In addition, babies born with birth defects have a greater chance of illness and long-term disability than babies without birth defects, Boyle said.
"Many people don't realize how common birth defects are -- they affect almost 1-in-33 babies born in the United States," Boyle said in a statement. "Most of us know someone affected by these conditions -- a child born with cleft lip and palate; a young girl with Down syndrome; a co-worker who has lost a baby due to a severe heart defect."
Not all birth defects can be prevented, but there are things a woman can do get ready for a healthy pregnancy, including:
-- Be fit. Eat a healthy diet and work towards a healthy weight before pregnancy.
-- Be healthy. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs. Be sure to consume at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before and during early pregnancy. Work to get health conditions, like diabetes, in control before becoming pregnant.
-- Visit a healthcare professional regularly. Consult with your healthcare provider about any medications, including prescription and over-the counter medications and dietary or herbal supplements, before taking them.
-- Manage health conditions and adopt healthy behaviors before becoming pregnant.