March of Dimes resources for perinatal health professionals

Preconception, premature birth, newborn screening and genetics are all important aspects of perinatal health care. The March of Dimes provides resources and links to help you stay up to date on these critical topics.

Preventing premature birth
Premature birth is the leading killer of newborns in the United States. Through our Prematurity Campaign, we aim to raise public awareness of the problems of prematurity and decrease the rate of preterm birth in the United States and throughout the world. Special resources for professionals can help you join us in this important effort.

Patient education
Patient education is key to improving the health of mothers and their babies. With more than 70 years of experience in health education, the March of Dimes provides a wide range of resources for patients and their families. Our goal is to provide health care professionals with the educational information they need to improve the health of mothers and babies.

Genetics and Your Practice®
The Genetics and Your Practice  website for professionals has closed after providing free continuing medical education and downloadable tools since 2003. Resources and tools previously found on the site related to genetic testing and screening, taking a family history and making referrals to genetic services are still available by contacting In its place, the March of Dimes and its partners have developed a free point of care tool for primary prenatal providers, called the Pregnancy & Health Profile, to help integrate genetics into your practice.  The computer-based tool collects standard information as part of prenatal care intake and helps identify and address potential pregnancy conditions and family history risks to help keep a woman and her baby healthy.

Our Preconception and Prenatal Genetic Screening Pocket Facts describes widely used screening methods and data for certain birth defects.Our Newborn Screening pocket facts focuses on the 28 metabolic conditions plus hearing that are currently screened for as part of the standard panel. Since the guide was first printed, the panel now includes screenings for congenital heart defects and severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome.

Professional collaborations
The March of Dimes works with a number of organizations to bring the most current scientific and clinical information to providers on a number of topics:

  • March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign includes partners and alliances working together to help lead the national effort to fight prematurity.
  • is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) preconception initiative for health care providers.
  • The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) promotes a wellness model of maternity care to improve birth outcomes and reduce health care costs. Its Breastfeeding is Priceless fact sheet offers recommendations for providers to support breastfeeding in clinical practice.
  • The Genetics/Genomics Competency Center for Education provides genetics and genomics resources, including competency guidelines and curricula. It also provides a forum for sharing your own activities, resources and assessments.
  • The March of Dimes is a member of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. This organization seeks to improve the lives and future prospects of children and families through efforts to prevent teen pregnancy and unplanned pregnancy, especially among single, young adults.
  • The March of Dimes and its partners have developed a free, electronic prenatal intake tool, the Pregnancy and Health Profile, for primary care providers to help the identification and management of patients at risk for genetic conditions.  March of Dimes continues to seek collaborators to translate and test the tool in additional languages or develop and test new modules to improve the quality of care across the lifespan. Please contact with the subject line, “Prenatal risk assessment.” 

Most common questions

Does the March of Dimes provide information about birth defects?

Yes. The March of Dimes produces fact sheets on several birth defects, including autism, chromosomal abnormalities, cleft lip, congenital heart defects and Down syndrome. Simply type the name of the birth defect into the search box.

What happens during a preconception checkup?

A preconception checkup can help assure that a woman is as healthy as possible before she conceives. Her provider can identify and often treat health conditions that can pose a risk in pregnancy, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or certain infections. During the visit, the woman can learn about nutrition, weight, smoking, drinking alcohol and occupational exposures that can pose pregnancy risks. The provider also can make sure a woman’s vaccinations are up to date and that any medications she takes are safe during pregnancy. The woman and her provider can discuss her health history and that of her partner and family. If the woman or her partner has a history of birth defects or preterm birth or if either has a high risk for a genetic disorder based on family history, ethnic background or age, the provider may suggest seeing a genetic counselor.

What is a birth defect?

A birth defect is an abnormality of structure, function or metabolism (body chemistry) present at birth that results in physical or intellectual disabilities or death. Thousands of different birth defects have been identified. Birth defects are the leading cause of death in the first year of life.

See also: Common birth defects

What newborn screening tests does the March of Dimes recommend?

The March of Dimes would like to see all babies in all states screened for at least 31 health conditions. Many of these health conditions can be treated if found early.

All states require newborn screening for at least 26 health conditions. Some states require screening for additional conditions – some up to 50 or more. For more information, read our article on newborn screening.

©2013 March of Dimes Foundation. The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).