VaCARES Birth Defects Surveillance

Birth defects, or congenital anomalies, are structural changes to the body that are present at birth. These changes can affect almost any part of the body and can vary from mild to severe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), birth defects are common, affecting 1 in 33 babies born each year in the United States, or about 120,000 babies per year.

Even though it is not possible to prevent all birth defects, certain steps taken before and during pregnancy can increase a person’s chance of having a healthy baby. Learn more about birth defects and prevention from CDC.


The Virginia Congenital Anomalies Reporting and Education System (VaCARES) is a birth defects surveillance system mandated in 1985 by the Code of Virginia, § 32.1-69.1. This mandate requires hospitals to report cases of birth defects in children under age two to VaCARES and allows for review and evaluation of the system and activities.

Goals of the birth defects surveillance program:

  • Collect data to evaluate possible causes of birth defects.
  • Improve the diagnosis and treatment of birth defects.
  • Establish a mechanism for informing families of children with birth defects and their physicians about available health resources.