(RxWiki News) Written By Digital Pharmacist Staff
January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is trying to raise awareness about birth defects and ways to help prevent them.
Not all birth defects are preventable, according to the CDC. But certain healthy behaviors before and during pregnancy can increase your risk of having a healthy baby.
To help prevent birth defects, the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN) recommends that women take folic acid, get regular checkups, make sure any medical conditions are under control, get tested for infectious diseases, get any necessary vaccinations, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and not use cigarettes, alcohol or other drugs.
Although the cause of most birth defects is unknown, the use of some substances and medicines and exposure to some chemicals and infectious diseases during pregnancy have been linked to an increased risk. Also, folic acid helps a baby’s brain and spine develop in the first month of pregnancy, when a woman might not know she's pregnant.
January is also a time to recognize those currently living with birth defects and raise awareness for their common, costly and sometimes preventable conditions. According to the NBDPN, birth defects affect about 1 in 33 babies every year and cause about 1 in 5 infant deaths.
Birth defects are abnormal conditions that develop before or at the time of birth. Some are minor, such as an extra finger or toe. Others are serious, such as a heart defect.
For many babies born with a birth defect, there is no family history of the condition. Many birth defects are also not found immediately at birth. A birth defect can affect how the body looks, how it works or both. Some birth defects like cleft lip or spina bifida are easy to see. Others are not.
Thanks to recent medical advancements, children born with birth defects are living longer than ever before. But these children often need specialized treatment, continued care and strong support systems throughout their lives.
That's why raising awareness is so important.
What can you do to help raise awareness and lower your risk of having a child with birth defects? You can talk to your loved ones about the issue, adopt healthy lifestyle choices before and during pregnancy and speak to your health care provider as often as possible.