Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Birth Defects Prevention

January 2013 is National Birth Defects Prevention Month! The theme is "Birth defects are common, costly, and critical.”

Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States and are a leading cause of infant mortality. Put another way, Every 4.5 minutes, a baby is born 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 The good news is awareness efforts offer hope for reducing the number of birth defects in the future:
  • 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
Research and Tracking:
Accurately tracking birth defects is the first step in preventing them and reducing their effect. Birth defects tracking systems are vital to help us find out where and when birth defects occur and who they affect. This gives us important clues about preventing birth defects and allows us to evaluate our efforts. We base our research on what we learn from tracking. By analyzing the data collected, we can identify factors that increase or decrease the risk of birth defects and identify community or environmental concerns that need more study. In addition, research helps the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) answer critical questions about the causes of many of these birth defects.

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