Learn About Birth Defects and Prevention

Learn About Birth Defects and Prevention

Happy and Healthy New Year! January begins our new year with several health awareness observances. Among these subjects is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), every 4½ minutes, a baby is born with a major birth defect in the United States and is a leading cause of death among U.S. infants. Babies born with birth defects are at a much greater risk for illness and long-term disability than babies without birth defects. This month is a time to focus on raising awareness of birth defect frequency and the steps necessary to prevent them.

Birth defects are abnormal conditions that occur just before or at the time of birth caused by genetic factors, certain medications, drugs, or chemicals. Other causes are a mystery and are still being studied. The conditions can range from milder defects such as an extra appendage like a finger or toe to more serious heart and major organ defects. They all cause physical and mental problems affecting about 120,000 babies a year.

Not all birth defects can be prevented, but the good news is that a woman can substantially increase her chance of having a healthy baby. Prevention and treatments for birth defects are constantly being found. Better health care techniques, immunizations, genetic counseling, and new discoveries of defect-causing genes all improve a mother’s chance of having a healthy baby.

Make a plan to help avoid and prevent birth defects. Here are some tips to get healthy before and during your pregnancy:

  • Take a vitamin or eat fortified foods to get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and street drugs.
  • Prevent infections with thorough hand washing, avoiding ill people, and cooking meat well done.
  • See a health care professional on a regular basis to discuss any medical issues and medicine use.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle with exercise, diet and diabetes control.

Pregnancy can be an exciting, yet stressful time. Get peace of mind by striving to consistently stay healthy before and during pregnancy. Know that even if a birth defect does occur, the baby can absolutely live a long and healthy life. Special care after birth and newborn screening tests help these babies.

Posted in Health Information and Tips