Raising Awareness on Birth Defects

Por sherrie pratt

Pregnancy is a beautiful, life-changing process, but discussing the possibility of birth defects is not always an easy topic.

January is National Birth Defects Awareness Month, highlighting how women can increase their chance of having a healthy baby during pregnancy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us every four and a half minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect in the U.S. The most common include, down syndrome, heart defects, spina bifida, and cleft lip/palate. While not all birth defects are preventable, providers list important steps women should follow.

Taking 400 micrograms of folic acid daily can help prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine, especially when taken before becoming pregnant. Folic acid can come from fortified foods, like bread, eggs, milk, or supplements. It’s also very important to maintain a healthy diet and weight.

Other ways to reduce the risk are to manage diabetes and refrain from smoking, drinking, and taking drugs. Infections can also be harmful during pregnancy, which is why it’s important to talk with your provider about certain vaccinations to protect a baby’s development. Running a high fever during early pregnancy is also a risk factor.

Kelly Crews, a nurse practitioner who specializes in pediatrics with Central Florida Health Care, says all babies should receive a newborn screening, including a critical heart disease screening, and the pediatric provider should follow any abnormal result.

On a positive note, many children born with birth defects can still live long and happy lives. Learning about a condition early and knowing everything about it will better prepare parents to provide the best needs long term.