About the Arkansas Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention

Each year in Arkansas, approximately 1,300 babies are diagnosed with birth defects and more than 100 babies will die because of their defects. The Arkansas Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention seeks to reduce the occurrence of birth defects in Arkansas and the nation. The Arkansas Center participated previously in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS) and helped conduct research on the causes and prevention of birth defects.

The Arkansas Center brings specific expertise in studying genetic factors that might increase the risk for birth defects. Its current participation in BD-STEPS provides a unique opportunity to look more closely at genes, mother’s lifestyle, and the interaction between genes and exposures in the mother’s surroundings that might potentially lead to birth defects. This Center is positioned to build on its foundation and continue to identify maternal exposures in early pregnancy that may be amenable to early prevention.

For more information about the Arkansas Center, please go to http://birthdefects.uams.edu/

Principal Investigator Wendy N. Nembhard, PhD, MPH, FACE

Dr. Wendy Nembhard is a perinatal epidemiologist, the Chair and an Associate Professor of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), Fay W Boozman College of Public Health. She is also the Interim Section Chief and an Associate Professor of the Birth Defects Research in the Department of Pediatrics, UAMS College of Medicine and Arkansas Children’s Research Institute. She is also the Director and Principal Investigator of the CDC-supported Arkansas Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention, and the Scientific Director of the Arkansas Reproductive Health Monitoring System (ARHMS), the statewide population-based birth defects surveillance program.

Dr. Nembhard has more than 18 years of experience conducting population-based birth defects research. Her research interest includes the causes of birth defects – with specific emphasis on congenital heart defects, as well as the long-term outcomes among children with birth defects. She is also conducts research on fetal exposures and their role in developing adult chronic disease, causes of fetal and infant mortality, and racial/ethnic disparities in perinatal outcomes.

"Birth defects have affected pregnancies and children for centuries, yet despite advances in technology, medicine and general scientific knowledge, the causes for most cases of birth defects that occur remain unknown. BD-STEPS provides us with the opportunity to change that fact by combining information from families who agree to participate in each state to learn more about the causes of birth defects. This is a tremendous opportunity."
— Wendy N. Nembhard

Notable Research Findings:

The following are selected examples of important research publications led by the AR Center. 

Nembhard WN, Tang X, Hu Z, MacLeod S, Stowe Z, Webber D and the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. (2017) Maternal and infant genetic variants, maternal periconceptional selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors use and risk of congenital heart defects in children: A population-based study. British Medical Journal BMJ. 2017 Mar 6;356:j832. doi: 10.1136/bmj.j832.


Contact Information:

Principal Investigator:

Wendy N. Nembhard, PhD, MPH, FACE

Director, Arkansas Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Arkansas Children’s Research Institute


Birth Defects Office: 501-364-5000