BISMARCK, N.D. – Every four and a half minutes a baby is born with a birth defect in the United States. It can occur in any family, regardless of race, ethnicity, health history, or economic status. That’s why the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) is promoting Birth Defects Prevention Month and working to increase awareness of five essential tips to reduce the chance of having a baby with a birth defect.
The Birth Defects Prevention Month campaign theme, “Best for You. Best for Baby.” aims to raise awareness of the roughly 1 in 33 babies born with a birth defect each year in North Dakota. “While we can’t prevent all birth defects, the following steps increase a woman’s chance of having a healthy baby,” explained Kimberly Hruby, Special Health Services Division Director at the NDDoH.
1. Take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
· Folic acid is very important because it can help prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine.
2. Visit with your health care provider before stopping or starting any medicine.
· There are often benefits to continuing treatment throughout pregnancy. Discussing a treatment plan before a pregnancy allows a woman and her health care provider to weigh the pros and cons of all options to keep mom and baby as healthy as possible.
3. Get your vaccination up-to-date, including the flu shot.
· Having the right vaccinations, like the flu and Tdap vaccines, at the right time during pregnancy can help keep a woman and her baby healthy. Pregnant women should discuss COVID-19 vaccination with their health care provider.
4. Reach a healthy weight before becoming pregnant.
· Obesity increases the risk for several serious birth defects and other pregnancy complications.
5. Avoid harmful substances during pregnancy, such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
· There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy and its exposure can cause major birth defects.
· Smoking during pregnancy can cause dangerous chemicals to damage the placenta and/or reach the baby’s bloodstream.
· The opioid addiction epidemic has led to a sharp increase in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, premature birth and drug withdrawal in developing babies.
“Birth defects are a common cause of death in the first year of a baby’s life, but change happens through awareness,” added Hruby. The NDDoH encourages everyone to be an active participant in raising awareness during National Birth Defects Prevention Month.
Special Health Services is a division within the NDDoH that offers services for many children with birth defects. For more information about services available or about Birth Defects Prevention Month, contact Kimberly Hruby, NDDoH, at 701-328-4854 or firstname.lastname@example.org.