Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Birth Defects

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month and this year’s theme is “Birth defects are common, costly, and critical.”

Every 4.5 minutes, a baby is born in the U.S. with a birth defect. Major birth defects are conditions present at birth that cause structural changes in one or more parts of the body. They can have a serious adverse effect on health, development, or functional ability. Babies who survive and live with birth defects are at increased risk for developing many lifelong physical, cognitive, and social challenges. Medical care and support services only scrape the surface of the financial and emotional impact of living with birth defects.

Not all birth defects can be prevented, but a woman can increase her own chances of having a healthy baby by managing health conditions and adopting healthy behaviors before becoming pregnant. This is important because many birth defects happen very early during pregnancy, sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Here are some steps a woman can take to get ready for a healthy pregnancy:
  • consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily
  • manage chronic maternal illnesses such as diabetes, seizure disorders, or phenylketonuria (PKU)
  • reach and maintain a healthy weight
  • talk to a health care provider about taking any medications, both prescription and over-the-counter
  • avoid alcohol, smoking, and illicit drugs
  • see a health care provider regularly
  • avoid toxic substances at work or at home
  • ensure protection against domestic violence
  • know their family history and seek reproductive genetic counseling, if appropriate
For more information, visit http://go.usa.gov/Zd8w or http://go.usa.gov/Zd9x

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