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NHM Health Focus:
Birth Defects Awareness

January 2009

  birth defects logo

Birth Defect Information
  – Basic Facts About Birth Defects (NCBDDD, CDC)
  – Decreasing the Chance of Birth Defects (FDA)
  – Birth Defects (MedlinePlus, NLM)
  – Preventing Birth Defects (NCBDDD, CDC)
  – Birth Defects: Good Nutrition, a Good Defense (CDC Foundation)
  – Common Concerns and Exposures (CERHR, NIEHS)
  – Birth Defects (KidsHealth, Nemours)
  – Quick Reference & Fact Sheets (March of Dimes)
  – Descriptions of Leading Categories of Birth Defects (MOD)

Organizations
  – National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
  – National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
  – March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation
  – National Birth Defects Prevention Network
  – Organization of Teratology Information Services
  – Save Babies Through Screening Foundation
  – National Newborn Screening and Genetics Resource Center
  – Fetal Alcohol Unit (University of Washington)
  – National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities
 

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month.

"Birth defects affect about one in every 33 babies born in the United States each year. They are the leading cause of infant deaths, accounting for more than 20 percent of all infant deaths. Babies born with birth defects have a greater chance of illness and long term disability than babies without birth defects." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Sixty to seventy percent of birth defects have unknown causes. The remaining 30 - 35 percent are known to be caused by environmental and genetic factors.

Environmental factors known to cause birth defects include:

  • Physical factors including x-rays and radiation
  • Chemical factors including alcohol, tobacco, drugs, lack of a needed vitamin e.g. folic acid, or excess of a nutrient e.g. vitamin A
  • Biological factors including illnesses caused by viruses such as Rubella

Genetic factors include:

"While the causes of most birth defects are not known, there are a number of steps a woman can take to reduce her risk of having a baby with a birth defect."( March of Dimes) To best increase chances of having a healthy baby, the March of Dimes recommends that a woman who is pregnant or planning pregnancy should:

  • schedule a pre-pregnancy visit with her health care provider
  • avoid alcohol, smoking, and drugs
  • not take any medication — prescription, over-the-counter, or herbal — without first checking with her health care provider
  • avoid changing the cat's litter box or eating
  • avoid eating raw or undercooked meat
  • take a daily multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of the B-vitamin folic acid
    ( March of Dimes)

Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum has these additional resources related to birth defects and their prevention:



 
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