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Release: Jan. 28, 2002

Iowa Birth Defects Registry releases 2002 annual report

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Iowa Birth Defects Registry has issued its annual report for 2002, with information on selected birth defect rates in Iowa, risk factors for birth defects, and ongoing research and education activities in the state.

Located within the University of Iowa College of Public Health, the registry works with all Iowa hospitals, as well as hospitals in neighboring states that serve Iowans, to collect information about birth defects diagnosed among pregnancies of state residents. This information is used to assess trends in birth defect occurrence and mortality within the state and to study potential causes of birth defects.

"The registry provides a comprehensive monitoring program through its surveillance, research and education activities," said Paul Romitti, Ph.D., director of the Iowa Birth Defects Registry. "The information we gather can be used by health care providers and educators to provide treatment and support services in Iowa communities, as well as by researchers who utilize the information to study risk factors for birth defects."

Each year, approximately 1,600 pregnancies in Iowa and 150,000 nationwide are diagnosed with birth defects. Birth defects are the leading cause of death in infants under one year of age.

The annual report contains a county-by-county breakdown of birth defect rates in Iowa from 1995 to 1999, as well as rates of specific types of birth defects during the same time period.

The report also includes a section on the benefits of adequate consumption of folic acid during pregnancy. Research has shown that folic acid, a B vitamin, is critical for the normal development of a human fetus. The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that all women of childbearing age (15 to 44 years old) consume 400 micrograms of folic acid each day. Taken at least one month before and during pregnancy, folic acid can reduce a woman's risk of having a pregnancy affected by certain birth defects, such as neural tube defects. These defects affect an estimated 4,000 pregnancies nationwide each year.

To receive a copy of the annual report, contact the Iowa Birth Defects Registry toll free at (866) 274-4237, or by e-mail at