Prevention of birth defects in a national study

Zeina Khodr, The University of Texas School of Public Health


The following analyses covered two main objectives focused on the prevention of and identification of risk factors for birth defects, the leading cause of infant mortality. All analyses utilized data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS), an ongoing, population-based, case-control study of major structural birth defects. The first objective was to identify predictors of folic acid supplementation among women of reproductive age. To meet this objective, a previous analysis of potential predictors of periconcecptional folic acid use in the NBDPS was repeated using data from more recent years (1997-2000 versus 2001-2005). The results of these analyses were consistent with the initial analyses, indicating that folic acid use is associated with maternal race/ethnicity, age, education, pregnancy awareness, smoking status, first prenatal care visit, previous live births, and fertility treatments). In addition, data from NBDPS controls were used to identify predictors of preconceptional folic acid use, since supplementation is optimally initiated prior to pregnancy (rather than after conception). These analyses indicated that maternal race/ethnicity, education, age, nativity, employment status, income, number of dependents, smoking, and birth control are significantly associated with preconceptional folic acid supplementation. Ultimately the results of these analyses can be used to guide the development of targeted interventions for preconceptional folic acid use. The second objective was to investigate the association between parental Hispanic acculturation and the risk of gastroschisis, a congenital malformation of the abdominal wall, in offspring. Significant association were not observed for mothers < 20 years of age at conception. Among mothers ≥ 20 years of age, white parents were at a decreased risk of having a child with gastroschisis as compared to Hispanic parents who were born in the United States (US) [odd ratios (ORs) ranging from 0.60 to 0.55] and Hispanics parents who predominantly spoke English (ORs ranging from 0.65 to 0.58). Compared to Hispanic mothers born in the US, the risk of gastroschisis was lower among Hispanic mothers who had lived in the US < 5 years (OR=0.36, 95% CI: 0.42, 0.81) at the time of delivery and Hispanic mothers who migrated to the US at ≥ 20 years of age (OR=0.48, 95% CI: 0.26, 0.89). The results of these analyses provide further evidence that the risk of gastroschisis in offspring is associated with parent Hispanic ethnicity and, among Hispanics, with the degree of parental acculturation. Future studies should focus on characteristic differences between less and more acculturated parents to better understand the relationship between acculturation and gastroschisis.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Khodr, Zeina, "Prevention of birth defects in a national study" (2012). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3518864.