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Birth Defects Awareness Month

Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States, and are a leading cause of infant mortality.[2] With that being said, there are a few things that people can do in order to decrease that number. The National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN) is attempting to bring attention to this issue in the month of January, and inform others of precautions that soon-to-be mothers can take to aid in preventing birth defects. While none of these methods offer a guaranteed solution to the issue, raising awareness about preventative measures and volunteering can help the NBDPN in their mission to save as many people as possible from this fate.

The Situation

Birth defects are common, costly and critical, and babies who survive and live with these issues are at increased risk for developing many lifelong physical, cognitive and social challenges.[2] Not only that, these issues will have a financial and emotional impact to the child, as well as the parents and family, and medical care and support only scratches the surface.[2] It is the responsibility of the would-be parents to ensure that the mother is as healthy as possible and that she does not engage in activities that could jeopardize the chances of a healthy birth.

There are many planned prevention methods that family members can incorporate into their lives that could help with the situation, and the NBDPN has a helpful list:[2]

  • Plan Ahead
    • Get as healthy as possible before becoming pregnant.
    • Take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
  • Avoid harmful substances
    • Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking.
    • Be careful with harmful exposures at work and home.
  • Choose a healthy lifestyle
    • Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins.
    • Be physically active.
    • Work to get medical conditions like diabetes under control.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider
    • Get regular medical checkups.
    • Discuss all medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
    • Talk about your family medical history.[2]

Helping Out

It is important to raise awareness about the commonality of birth defects and how pregnant mothers can take precautions to avoid this, because more people who are aware means more people to act and engage in these preventative measures. People can aid the cause by volunteering their time and passing the messages along to as many ears as possible.[2] The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also implemented several social media campaigns that are being used to spread the message.[1] One of the campaigns includes creating a hashtag that connects people to information and testimonials from those affected.[1] Some hashtags they are using: #Prevent2Protect and #1in33.[1] Interested advocates can use these hashtags when posting about birth defects and any accompanying stories on social media so that others can have a dedicated space online to find this information.

The NBDPN also has many useful resources on their website chock full of information so that people learn as much as possible, and then spread that knowledge to others. The website includes information on the different types of birth defects, newsletter articles on the subject, sample letters that people can send to healthcare providers to inspire them, fact sheets for policy makers, materials for local Public Health departments and even educational resources for men.[2] The information is readily available and there is no time to waste. Join the NBDPN and CDC today in spreading the word about birth defects and how to try and avoid them!

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). “National Birth Defects Prevention Month”. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/prevention-month.html .

National Birth Defects Prevention Network. (2018). “National Birth Defects Prevention Month”. Retrieved from: https://www.nbdpn.org/bdpm.php .

 

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