About the Massachusetts Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention
Established in 1997, the Massachusetts Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention is a collaboration between the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Boston University's Slone Epidemiology Center, and Brigham and Women's Hospital Active Malformations Surveillance Program. The Massachusetts Center's areas of expertise include developing and refining methods for public health tracking, conducting health studies of children and pregnant women, and studying heart defects as a sub-group of all birth defects.
The Massachusetts Center is a national leader in studying the effects of medications and other possible human teratogens. Recently, for example, MA Center researchers showed that medication use during pregnancy has risen steadily over the past 30 years. The effects of drugs – whether prescription, over-the-counter, or herbal remedies – on the developing fetus are often poorly understood. As part of the BD-STEPS, the MA Center will continue to develop and refine the tools necessary to conduct sound research on the effects of medications and other substances during pregnancy.
Principal Investigator Marlene Anderka, ScD, MPH
Marlene Anderka has served as the Principal Investigator and Director of the MA Center at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health since 2001. She oversees the MA Center’s participation in the BD-STEPS and sets the research agenda of the Center. She works closely with two Co-Investigators Allen Mitchell, Director of the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University, and Lewis Holmes, Director (emeritus) of the Genetics Unit at MassGeneral Hospital for Children.
"With BD-STEPS, we can address new concerns that arise. We can also use the data to confirm findings between exposures and birth defects found in other studies. Finally, this study brings leading researchers from several states together, which makes it possible to solve problems that no one researcher could solve alone."
— Marlene Anderka
Notable Research Findings:
The following are selected examples of important research publications led by the MA Center.
Van Bennekom CM, Mitchell AA, Moore CA, Werler MM and the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Vasoactive Exposures during Pregnancy and Risk of Microtia. Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2013 Jan;97(1):53-9.
Anderka M, Mitchell A, Louik C, Werler M, Hernández-Díaz S, Rasmussen S, and the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Medications used to treat nausea and vomiting of pregnancy and risk of selected birth defects. Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol 2012; 94(1):22-30.
Getz KD, Anderka MT, Werler MM, Case AP. Short interpregnancy interval and gastroschisis risk in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2012; 94:714-720.
Hernandez, RK, Werler, MM, Romitti, P, Sun, L, Anderka, M, and the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug Use among Women and the Risk of Birth Defects. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2012; 206:228.e1-8.
Mitchell AA, Gilboa SM, Werler MM, Kelley KE, Louik C, Hernández-Díaz S; National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Medication use during pregnancy, with particular focus on prescription drugs: 1976-2008. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2011; 205(1):51.e1-8.
Marlene Anderka, ScD, MPH
Director, Massachusetts Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention
Massachusetts Department of Public Health