Every year, an estimated 8 million babies around the world are born with a serious birth defect. In the United States, it’s about 1 in 33 babies. All communities are affected by birth defects. This is why, on March 3, March of Dimes is joining more than 100 organizations from around the world to observe the fifth annual World Birth Defects Day.
Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops or how the body functions. Birth defects are a major cause of child mortality, and those who survive, may face a lifetime of disability.
There are thousands of different birth defects. The most common and severe birth defects are heart defects, neural tube defects and Down syndrome. We don’t know the cause of all birth defects. Some may be caused by the genes you inherit from your parents. Others may be caused by things in your environment, such as exposure to harmful chemicals. Some may be due to a combination of genes and the environment. For most birth defects, the cause is unknown.
While not all birth defects can be prevented, here are five things you can do to help you have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.
- Take a vitamin supplement containing 400 micrograms of folic acid. Taking folic acid before and in the first few weeks of pregnancy can help prevent neural tube defects.
- Get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy to help make sure you’re healthy when you get pregnant. At your checkup, talk to your health care provider about any medicine you take. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, supplements and herbal products. Some medicines aren’t safe to take during pregnancy.
- Get to a healthy weight before you get pregnant. Not being at a healthy weight can affect pregnancy and your fertility (your ability to get pregnant). Being overweight or obese during pregnancy can cause problems for you and your baby. Talk to your provider about the right weight for you.
- Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use harmful drugs, like opioids, during pregnancy. If you need help to quit, talk to your provider.
- Learn how to avoid infections that can cause birth defects, like Zika virus, chickenpox, syphilis, cytomegalovirus and toxoplasmosis.
Join us this Sunday, March 3, to raise awareness to help improve the health of all babies around the world.
Here’s how you can help:
- Lend your voice! Participate on a global Twitter chat hosted by @modhealthtalk and @nacersano. This bilingual conversation will happen on March 1 at 11:00 am.
- Participate in the Buzzday on Twitter, March 3, by using the hashtag #WorldBDDay.
Learn more at: worldbirthdefectsday.org