New Discoveries and Breakthroughs in Pregnancy Health Research

The Center for Better Beginnings at UC San Diego advances the health of families everywhere through scientific discoveries. Our role within the Department of Pediatrics is to better understand environmental influences affecting maternal health and child development, including the causes of birth defects and how they can be prevented. From epidemiological studies to basic science to genetics, we are closely monitoring emerging and existing conditions and discovering new ways for prevention and treatment.


  • Exposures in Pregnancy

    Getting the Answers You Need

    Moms-to-be are women who may be living with health conditions that require taking medicine, social beings who may use recreational substances like alcohol or marijuana, and community members who may get a vaccination to keep themselves (and those around them) healthy. Yet there is a major lack of research on the safety of medications and other exposures for pregnant women. We strongly believe that every mom-to-be (and every healthcare provider treating her) deserves to know whether the things she may be exposed to could affect her pregnancy or her developing baby. Here’s what we’re doing about it.

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  • Human Milk

    Liquid Gold for Scientists & Babies

    People have been nourishing their babies with nature’s best nutrition since the dawn of time. Yet in this modern day and age, we still have more questions than answers about what exactly makes human milk “liquid gold” for babies. Our researchers are exploring the powerful benefits of human milk, and how it influences child health and development. Discover how our Mommy’s Milk Human Milk Biorepository is building the first-ever research database of human milk—and find out what this means for the future of science.

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  • Alcohol

    Understanding the Devastating Effects on Pregnancy

    In 1973, our co-director, Dr. Kenneth Lyons Jones, was one of the first physicians to identify the detrimental effects of prenatal alcohol exposure when he published the 1st scientific paper on fetal alcohol syndrome. Since then, our Center has been dedicated to researching ways to improve the prevention and identification of alcohol-exposed pregnancies locally, nationally, and internationally.

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  • Birth Defects

    Reducing the Leading Cause of Infant Deaths

    We are pioneering the way for birth defects research as it relates to surveillance as well as identifying their environmental, genetic, and unknown causes.

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  • Child Health Outcomes

    Improving Maternal and Child Health through the Power of Existing Data

    Child health is impacted by a combination of factors – from environmental to biological to social – that often intersect in complex ways. But attempting to collect all of this information from a given research participant could be overwhelming or take a long time to gather. That’s why our researchers are capitalizing on the wealth of different data sets that already exist for San Diego County families and are combining them in unique and powerful ways to answer crucial questions about child health.

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