BD-STEPS: The Next Frontier in Birth Defects Research

One in every 33 babies in the United States is born with a birth defect. Birth defects are one of the leading causes of death in the first year of life and can affect how a child’s body looks, works, or both. While we know the causes of some birth defects, we do not know what causes most of them. The Birth Defects Study To Evaluate Pregnancy exposureS (BD-STEPS) is the next endeavor for the Centers for Birth Defects Research and Prevention (CBDRP) to understand the causes of birth defects. BD-STEPS will dig deeper into the promising findings of previous research.

BD-STEPS aims to focus on risk factors that a woman may be able to change:

  • Diabetes, obesity, and physical activity
  • Treatments for chronic (long-term) medical conditions (such as asthma or high blood pressure)
  • Treatments for infertility
  • Other medication use during pregnancy

baby smile250X250Since BD-STEPS looks at a large group of women, this means findings will apply to "the average woman" rather than any specific individual. There are many possible results. We may uncover risk factors for birth defects (things that raise the risk of birth defects), protective factors (things that lower the chances of having a baby with birth defects), as well as neutral factors (things that neither raise nor lower the risk of birth defects). Understanding the causes of birth defects can help us prevent them.

Centers participating in BD-STEPS are located in Arkansas, California, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, and North Carolina. CDC participates as the seventh study center in Georgia. BD-STEPS began interviewing women who had babies born beginning January 2014.

The size and scope of BD-STEPS will provide important clues to help us in our journey to ensure that every child is born with the best health possible.