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National Birth Defect Prevention Month (January)

January is designated as National Birth Defect Prevention Month. Every year, birth defects affect approximately one in 33 newborns and are a leading cause of infant mortality in the United States. Birth defects can cause emotional and physical stress for an affected person and parents of the disabled child. From a financial view, the stress created by birth defects can be extremely high as some birth defects have life-long costs. In the United States birth defects have accounted for 139,000 hospital stays in a single calendar year, resulting in roughly $2.6 billion in hospital costs alone.

While there are multiple factors that can affect the development of a fetus, which in turn could cause a birth defect, medication use during pregnancy is one being examined in depth. The CDC estimates that two-thirds of pregnant women use at least one medication during pregnancy. Since some medications have adverse side-effects, it is recommended that if a woman is pregnant or is planning a pregnancy, she should consult her physician immediately related to any medication usage.

Several preventative measures can be taken to reduce the risk of birth defects. Many birth defects happen very early during pregnancy, sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant. It is important to manage health conditions and adopt healthy behaviors before becoming pregnant.

  • Take 400 mcg of folic acid every day- starting at least one month before getting pregnant
  • Do not drink alcohol while pregnant
  • Do not smoke or use illicit drugs while pregnant
  • Talk to healthcare provider concerning medications
  • Prevent Infections
  • Talk to healthcare provider about vaccinations (shots)
  • Keep diabetes under control and reach/maintain a healthy weight
  • See a healthcare professional on a regular basis

Information in this article was obtained from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Information provided by Benjamin L. Gregory, student intern with Community Outreach.