National Birth Defects Prevention Month Seeks to Raise Awareness of Birth Defects

January 10, 2014
Birth defects are the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States.  In fact, every 4 ½ minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect in the United States.  In honor of January as National Birth Defects Prevention Month - 2014, Rice County Public Health is raising awareness that the risk for many types of birth defects can be reduced through healthy lifestyle choices and medical care before and during pregnancy.
There are many different kinds of birth defects including congenital heart defects, cleft lip or palate, defects of the brain and spine, bones, muscles and internal organs, and a variety of genetic syndromes such as Down syndrome.  Some have only a minor and brief effect on a baby’s health while others have life-threatening or life-long effects, which can often be lessened by early detection and treatment.
Studies have demonstrated several important steps women can take to help prevent birth defects.  Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant are advised to:
• 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
Sara Coulter, Clinic and Community Supervisor, (507) 332 -5910
Deb Purfeerst, Community Health Services Director, (507) 332-5914