10 Things You Should Know For Birth Defects Prevention Month

birth defects prevention month

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. MOFAS is joining organizations across the country to raise awareness of birth defects and actions that people can take to help have a healthy baby. Increase your understanding of birth defects by reading our ten facts below.

1. There are many different kinds of birth defects.

Birth defects are structural changes present at birth that can affect almost any part or parts of the body (such as the heart, brain, or foot). They may affect how the body looks, works, or both. Birth defects can vary from mild to severe. The well-being of each child affected with a birth defect depends mostly on which organ or body part is involved and how much it is affected. Cleft lip and cleft palate, microcephaly, Down syndrome, and spina bifida are some common birth defects. You can learn about other birth defects on the CDC website.

2. Birth defects affect around 1 in 33 babies.

According to the CDC, a baby is born with a birth defect every 4.5 minutes in the United States. That means nearly 120,000 babies are affected by birth defects each year.

3. Many birth defects are diagnosed after a baby leaves the hospital.

Many birth defects are not found immediately at birth. Some birth defects like cleft lip or spina bifida are easy to see. Others, like heart defects, are not. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns. When there is a health issue with a child, the primary care provider might look for birth defects by taking a medical and family history, doing a physical exam, and sometimes recommending further tests. If a diagnosis cannot be made after the exam, the primary care provider might refer the child to a specialist in birth defects and genetics. A clinical geneticist is a doctor with special training to evaluate patients who may have genetic conditions or birth defects. Even if a child sees a specialist, an exact diagnosis might not be reached.

4. Not all birth defects can be prevented, but some can.

Not all birth defects can be prevented but some, can. You can increase your chances of having a healthy baby by seeking prenatal care, getting 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, avoiding alcohol and other harmful substances, and following a healthy lifestyle. Choosing an alcohol-free pregnancy is the only way to prevent FASD. Learn about other steps you can take to prevent birth defects here.

5. Even an action as simple as washing your hands can help prevent birth defects.

Washing your hands regularly can help keep your developing baby safe from infections, which can cause birth defects. It is especially important to wash your hands after: using the bathroom; touching raw meat, uncooked eggs, or unwashed vegetables; handling pets; gardening; or caring for small children.

6. Planning your pregnancy can help reduce the risk of birth defects.

By planning your pregnancy, you can take steps before you are pregnant to maximize your health and reduce the risk of your baby having birth defects. Speak to your healthcare provider about how you can prevent pregnancy until you are ready. Your healthcare provider can also discuss steps you can take to reduce the risk of birth defects when you do decide to become pregnant. Preventive actions you might consider include: taking 400 micrograms of folic acid, seeking prenatal care, and abstaining from alcohol and other harmful substances.

7. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause birth defects.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities known as FASD.

8. Prenatal alcohol exposure is the leading cause of preventable birth defects in the United States.

Prenatal alcohol exposure can cause an FASD. FASD refers to a range of effects including physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. It is estimated that up to 1 in 20 children in the U.S. have an FASD.

9. Zika is not the only cause of microcephaly in babies.

Although Zika has been in the news recently for causing microcephaly in babies, it is not the only known cause of microcephaly. Other things are known to cause microcephaly include certain infections (such as rubella, toxoplasmosis, or cytomegalovirus), changes in the baby’s genes, and exposure to harmful substances such as alcohol. Pregnant people can prevent microcephaly by using insect repellents and choosing not to drink alcohol throughout their entire pregnancy.

10. There are many resources to help support people born with birth defects.

Babies who have birth defects often need special care and interventions to survive and to thrive developmentally. Early intervention is vital to improving outcomes for these babies. If your child has a birth defect, you should ask his or her healthcare provider about local resources and treatment.

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Copyright © 2018 Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome | Photos by Amy Zellmer, Custom Creations Photography.

This site is provided to families and professionals as an informative site on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). It is not intended to replace professional medical, psychological, behavioral, legal, nutritional or educational counsel. Reference to any specific agency does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by MOFAS.