Posts Tagged ‘National Birth Defects Prevention Month’

Make a PACT to prevent birth defects

Friday, January 9th, 2015

MOD woman eatingEach year in the United States, about 120,000 babies (1 in 33) are affected by birth defects. Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. Birth defects can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops or how the body works. Not all birth defects can be prevented, but there are things that a woman can do before and during pregnancy to increase her chances of having a healthy baby.

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month and this year’s theme is “Making Healthy Choices to Prevent Birth Defects—Make a PACT for Prevention.” If you are thinking of having a baby, follow this PACT:

Plan ahead:
• Get as healthy as you can before becoming pregnant.
• Make sure you are taking 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Studies show that if all women in the United States took the recommended amount of folic acid before and during early pregnancy, up to 70 percent of neural tube defects (NTDs) could be prevented. Folic acid also may help prevent other birth defects, including cleft lip/palate and some heart defects.

Avoid harmful substances:
• Do not drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or use street drugs.
• Make sure you are aware of any harmful exposures at work or home and do your best to avoid them.

Choose a healthy lifestyle:
• Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, and lean proteins.
• Exercise and stay physically active.
• Make sure you work with your health care provider to get any pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, under control and managed.

Talk to your doctor:
• Get a preconception checkup before pregnancy and make sure you go to all of your prenatal visits during pregnancy.
• Discuss all medications you are taking with your doctor. This includes both prescription meds and over-the counter medicines.
• Review your family health history.

So this year, make a PACT to prevent birth defects by following these healthy guidelines. The National Birth Defects Prevention Network’s website has more information.

Top preventable birth defects

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

January is National Birth Defects Prevention month.  We posted earlier on the importance of taking folic acid before and during pregnancy to help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine.

The Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) is a group of highly trained professionals who are dedicated to providing accurate evidence-based, clinical information to patients and health care professionals about medications (prescription or over-the-counter), vaccines, chemical and other exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding.  They tell you whether a mother’s exposure to something might be harmful to her baby.

In honor of National Birth Defects Prevention Month, OTIS counselors are stepping up efforts to help educate the public. Counselors, who provide women answers to questions about specific exposures during pregnancy and lactation through a toll-free hotline, (866) 626-6847, and website, www.mothertobaby.org, have compiled a list of a few of the preventable causes of some of the most common birth defects.  Click on this link to read their information.

Birth defects prevention

Friday, January 7th, 2011

January 2011 is National Birth Defects Prevention Month.  This year’s theme is Medication Use Before, During, and After Pregnancy.

While most birth defects cannot be prevented because their causes are not known, women can take a number of steps before and during pregnancy to reduce their risk. These steps include taking a multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid daily starting before pregnancy and in early pregnancy. This helps to prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, including spina bifida, and may also help prevent heart defects. Another step is getting a pre-pregnancy check up and making sure that the medications you are taking are safe to use during pregnancy.

Talk with your health care provider and pharmacist about your medications.  For the most current information about medications (prescription or over-the-counter), drugs, vaccines, chemical or environmental agents and their potential risks, we suggest that you contact a Teratology Information Service (TIS).  A teratogen is any agent or substance that can affect fetal development.  To answer questions properly, it is sometimes necessary to know how far along in her pregnancy a woman was when she came in contact with the substance, what medications she was taking at the time, some of her medical history, etc.  Trained professionals in the field of teratogens can answer your specific questions while maintaining your anonymity. They also can tell you if a medication is safe to use while breastfeeding. The national toll-free phone number to call is 866-626-6847.

Folic acid in fortified grains

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

grainsOf the four million women who give birth in the US each year, some 3,000 babies are born with neural tube defects, which include certain birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. Folic acid is a critical element needed for proper spinal cord development during the first three weeks of pregnancy. Because this is often before a woman even knows she’s pregnant, it’s important for women of child-bearing age to follow a healthy lifestyle and to include folic acid as part of their diet.

The Grain Foods Foundation has joined with the March of Dimes to remind all women of child-bearing age of the important role folic acid plays in preventing birth defects. Enriched breads – and many other grains such as rice, tortillas, pasta and cereal – are important sources of folic acid. 

• White flour is enriched with three major B vitamins (niacin, thiamin and riboflavin), as well as iron, and is fortified with the B vitamin folic acid.
• Enriched flour contains two times as much folic acid as its whole grain counterpart – making enriched grains the largest source of folic acid in the diets of most Americans. Whole grain products, with the exception of some breakfast cereals, are not fortified with folic acid.
• Since the FDA required fortification of enriched grains, the number of babies born in the U.S. with neural-tube birth defects has declined by 34 percent in non-Hispanic whites, and by 36 percent among Hispanics.

Grain foods are a delicious and nutrient-dense component of a healthy diet and have been shown to help with weight maintenance. In fact, people who consume a medium-to-high percentage of carbohydrates in their diet have a reduced risk for obesity. This is important for women of childbearing age as obese women who are pregnant have a significantly higher risk of needing a Cesarean section delivery, delivering too early, developing pre-eclampsia, and having an exceptionally large baby. They also face double the risk of stillbirth and neonatal death.

For a balanced diet, the USDA recommends at least six one-ounce servings of grains daily. Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain is a grain product. Bread, pasta, oatmeal and even tortillas and pretzels are examples of grain foods.

Folic acid awareness week and birth defects prevention month

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Today is the first day of National Folic Acid Awareness Week. Folic acid is a B vitamin that can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord called neural tube defects (NTDs). Folic acid works to prevent these birth defects only if taken before conception and during early pregnancy.

Because NTDs originate in the first month of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant, it is important for a woman to have enough folic acid in her system before conception. Folic acid is recommended for all women of childbearing age because about half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned.

We have a helpful video on folic acid that is apart of our Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby video series. Click here to watch.

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month. The National Birth Defects Prevention Network’s Education and Outreach Committee developed a 2009 Birth Defects Prevention Month Packet focusing on “Obesity Prevention and Weight Management – Before, During, and After Pregnancy”. The packet materials are available by clicking here.  These resources can be shared with colleagues, policy makers, families, and others during Birth Defects Prevention Month and throughout the year.