About the California Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention

California represents 15% of all births in the United States. This year alone, 17,000 babies with birth defects will be born in California, and as many as 2,000 of these babies will die before their first birthday. Discovering causes is our only hope for preventing birth defects and working toward the larger goal of ensuring that every person is born healthy.

The California Center of Excellence is a collaborative partnership among Stanford University School of Medicine and the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program in the Department of Public Health. The Center collects data from women residing in eight counties in the Central Valley. It has received funding from CDC since 1997.

Our research answers questions:

About why certain racial or ethnic groups are at higher risk of birth defects, such as

  • Why are Latinos at increased risk of brain and spinal birth defects?, and
  • Why are African-American babies with birth defects more likely to die?

From parents in California about how to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, such as

  • Will stress hurt my baby? or
  • Will eating certain foods help my baby?

About environmental exposures that are especially important in California, such as

  • Do exposures to pesticides, contaminated water, and air pollution cause birth defects?

We also do research to try to understand how genes and exposures in our environment interact to affect risks of birth defects.


Principal Investigator Dr. Gary Shaw, PhD

Gary Shaw, DrPH, is the Principal Investigator for the Center. Dr. Shaw has been conducting research on birth defects for over 20 years.

"It is a privilege to work with talented scientists and interested parents to try to understand what causes birth defects. The cooperative research program funded by the CDC is one of our best hopes toward preventing the occurrence of birth defects."
— Dr. Gary Shaw


Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Suzan Carmichael, PhD

Suzan Carmichael has been conducting research on birth defects for more than 15 years. Together they are recognized leaders in birth defects research and have produced hundreds of scientific publications on birth defect causes related to diet, obesity, drugs, alcohol, stress, pollution, occupations, and genes. Dr. Shaw and Dr. Carmichael are Professors in the Department of Pediatrics at Stanford University.

"We are incredibly appreciative of the generosity of parents who provide us with information about their experiences. That’s what makes this study possible. This information provides the key to finding the causes of birth defects – so that someday we can prevent them."
— Dr. Suzan Carmichael


Notable Research Findings:

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

Padula AM, Yang W, Carmichael SL, Lurmann F, Balmes J, Hammond K, Shaw GM. Air pollution, neighborhood acculturation factors and neural tube defects among Hispanic women in California. Birth Def Res A 2017;109:403-422.

Bruckner TA, Karasek D, Yang W, Shaw GM, Catalano RA. Cohort variation in selection during pregnancy and risk of birth defects among males. Epidemiology 2017;epub.

Steurer MA, Norton ME, Baer RJ, Shaw GM, Keating S, Moon-Grady AJ, Chambers C, Jelliffe-Pawlowski LL. The role of maternal lymphatic markers in fetal diagnosis of critical congenital heart defects – a case control study. Am J Med Genet 2017;173:1231-5.

Von Behren J, Fisher PG, Carmichael SL, Shaw GM, Reynolds P. An investigation of connections between structural defects at birth and cancers arising in adolescence and young adulthood. J Peds 2017;epub.

Carmichael SL, Yang W, Ma C, Roberts E, Kegley S, English P, Lammer EJ, Witte JS, Shaw GM. Joint effects of residential proximity to pesticide applications and genetic variants on hypospadias risk. Birth Def Res A 2016;epub.

Kutbi H, Wehby GL, Moreno LM, Romitti PA, Carmichael SL, Shaw GM, Olshan AF, DeRoo L, Rasmussen SA, Murray JC, Wilcox A, Lie RT, Munger RG. Maternal underweight and obesity and risk of orofacial clefts in a large international consortium of population-based studies. Int J Epidemiol 2016;epub.

Pettigrew SM, Bell EM, VanZutphen A, Rocheleau CM, Shaw GM, Romitti PA, Lupo PJ, Soim A, Makelarski JA, Michalski A, Sanderson W. Paternal and combined parental occupational pesticide exposure and spina bifida in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, 1997-2002. Birth Def Res A 2016;106:963-971

Yang W, Carmichael SL, Shaw GM. Folic acid fortification and prevalences of neural tube defects, orofacial clefts, and gastroschisis in California, 1989-2010. Birth Def Res A 2016;106:1032-41.

Lammer EJ, Mohammed N, Iovannisci DM, Lidral AC, Ma C, Shaw GM. Genetic variation of FOXE1 and risk for orofacial clefts in a California population. Am J Med Genet A 2016;170:2770-6.

Marini NJ, Yang W, Asrani K, Witte JS, Rine J, Lammer EJ, Shaw GM. Sequence variation in folate pathway genes and risks of human cleft lip with or without cleft palate. Am J Med Genet A 2016;170:2777-87.

 

Contact Information:

Principal Investigators:

Gary M. Shaw, DrPH

Professor, Department of Pediatrics

Division of Neonatal & Developmental Medicine

Stanford University

 

Suzan Carmichael, PhD

Professor, Department of Pediatrics

Division of Neonatal & Developmental Medicine

Stanford University

 

650-721-5746

CA@bdsteps.org

Padula AM, Yang W, Carmichael SL, Lurmann F, Balmes J, Hammond K, Shaw GM. Air pollution, neighborhood acculturation factors and neural tube defects among Hispanic women in California. Birth Def Res A 2017;109:403-422.

Bruckner TA, Karasek D, Yang W, Shaw GM, Catalano RA.  Cohort variation in selection during pregnancy and risk of birth defects among males.  Epidemiology 2017;epub.

Steurer MA, Norton ME, Baer RJ, Shaw GM, Keating S, Moon-Grady AJ, Chambers C, Jelliffe-Pawlowski LL.  The role of maternal lymphatic markers in fetal diagnosis of critical congenital heart defects – a case control study. Am J Med Genet 2017;173:1231-5.

Von Behren J, Fisher PG, Carmichael SL, Shaw GM, Reynolds P.  An investigation of connections between structural defects at birth and cancers arising in adolescence and young adulthood. J Peds 2017;epub.

Carmichael SL, Yang W, Ma C, Roberts E, Kegley S, English P, Lammer EJ, Witte JS, Shaw GM. Joint effects of residential proximity to pesticide applications and genetic variants on hypospadias risk. Birth Def Res A 2016;epub.

Kutbi H, Wehby GL, Moreno LM, Romitti PA, Carmichael SL, Shaw GM, Olshan AF, DeRoo L, Rasmussen SA,  Murray JC, Wilcox A, Lie RT, Munger RG.  Maternal underweight and obesity and risk of orofacial clefts in a large international consortium of population-based studies. Int J Epidemiol 2016;epub.

Pettigrew SM, Bell EM, VanZutphen A, Rocheleau CM, Shaw GM, Romitti PA, Lupo PJ, Soim A, Makelarski JA, Michalski A, Sanderson W.  Paternal and combined parental occupational pesticide exposure and spina bifida in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, 1997-2002. Birth Def Res A 2016;106:963-971

Yang W, Carmichael SL, Shaw GM.  Folic acid fortification and prevalences of neural tube defects, orofacial clefts, and gastroschisis in California, 1989-2010.  Birth Def Res A 2016;106:1032-41.

Lammer EJ, Mohammed N, Iovannisci DM, Lidral AC, Ma C, Shaw GM.  Genetic variation of FOXE1 and risk for orofacial clefts in a California population.  Am J Med Genet A 2016;170:2770-6.

Marini NJ, Yang W, Asrani K, Witte JS, Rine J, Lammer EJ, Shaw GM.  Sequence variation in folate pathway genes and risks of human cleft lip with or without cleft palate.  Am J Med Genet A 2016;170:2777-87.