March 3 – World Birth Defects Day

Congenital anomalies (CA) are the main cause of infant mortality in developed countries.

The purpose of this Day around the world is to raise public awareness about the causes of CA, introduce CA primary prevention programs, expand the network of informational resources and care services for patients and their families.

The problems associated with CA are particularly relevant in Ukraine. CA are the cause of nearly 25% of infant (under 1 year of age) mortality cases. Modern science has proven that the appearance of most CA in children is affected by environmental factors (teratogenic factors), in particular, ionizing radiation, alcohol, deficiency of micronutrients. The negative impacts of those factors can be reduced or eliminated, and thereby the CA risks and frequency could be significantly reduced.

Thus, 50% of Neural Tube Defects (NTD) can be prevented by fortifying (enriching) flour with folic acid (vitamin B9), which is not conducted in Ukraine. Such programs have already been implemented in over 70 countries of the world and have been operating for more than 20 years. The time passed and millions of people covered by the programs did not demonstrate any evidence of the harm of food enrichment with vitamin B9. It should be noted that the frequency of NTD in Ukraine is the highest in Europe. NTD prevention is economically advantageous, since the cost of fortification of flour by folic acid is 20 times less than the cost of medical care. Ukraine already produces flour fortified with folic acid, but only for export. The introduction of mandatory folic acid flour fortification in Ukraine is vital, feasible and urgent.

The prenatal effects of alcohol are one of the most common causes of mental disorders in children. Our research suggests that over 3% of pregnant women use alcohol at high doses, which can lead to child impairment even before birth. Children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) are at risk of social orphanhood as 41% of them get into a children’s home. Children with FAS often die before reaching the age of 1 year.

Ionizing radiation is considered to be one of the important factors that cause CA. This circumstance is very relevant in Ukraine in connection with the consequences of the Chornobyl disaster.

OMNI-Net has some CA prevention informational resources for health professionals and the general public. We invite you to get acquainted with videos and materials on the prevention of CA:


Implementation of mandatory fortification of flour by folic acid in Ukraine is vital, possible and urgent.

Women of reproductive age should take 0.4 mg of folic acid daily in pills. The number of NTD can be reduced by 50%.


There is a need for a broad educational campaign related to the negative effects of alcohol on the child development before birth; that will help to prevent microcephaly and other CA.

Please see the video about prevention of fetal alcohol syndrome (in Ukrainian).


The Polissia population needs to reduce the impact of ionizing radiation through the respiratory tract (inhalation of smoke and dust) and its accumulation in the body as a result of the consumption of foods contaminated with radionuclides (especially forest mushrooms and berries). Preventing the accumulation of radionuclides is necessary to prevent leukemia, cancer and developmental disorders before and after birth. Possibilities for that do exist (video about the prevention of CA in Ukrainian).

Ukrainian Teratology Information System (UTIS) is a Ukrainian site on the prenatal impact of drugs and factors of the external and internal environment (teratogenic factors) and their impact on the baby during breastfeeding.

Updated: 2022/01/12 — 12:22