The Jackson County Department of Public Health is joining with the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the March of Dimes, and the Teratology Society to increase awareness that preventing infections before and during pregnancy can protect babies from being born with birth defects. January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. The theme for 2017 is “Prevent to Protect: Prevent Infections for Baby’s Protection.”
As a part of National Birth Defects Prevention Month, JCDPH is encouraging the community to support this effort to raise awareness. Every 4 ½ minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect in the United States. Not all birth defects can be prevented. But, women can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by preventing infections before and during pregnancy.
This year, the Health Department is encouraging all women to “Prevent to Protect” by taking the following steps:
- Properly prepare food
- Talk to your healthcare provider
- Protect yourself from animals and insects known to carry diseases such as Zika virus
- Maintain good hygiene
By following these guidelines, women can reduce the risk of having a child with a birth defect and also reduce their risk of pregnancy complications such as early pregnancy loss, prematurity, and still births.
About 120,000 babies are affected by birth defects each year in the United States with 3,500 cases occurring in North Carolina. Not only can birth defects lead to lifelong challenges and disabilities, they are also the most common cause of death in the first year of life and the second most common cause of death in children aged one to four years. Public awareness, expert medical care, accurate and early diagnosis, and social support systems are all needed for prevention and treatment of these all-too-common and sometimes deadly conditions.
“Steps like up-to-date vaccinations, avoiding infections, visiting a healthcare provider well before pregnancy, and controlling your weight through a healthy diet and activity can go a long way in assuring a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby,” said Nursing Supervisor Carla Morgan. “All women of childbearing years should take a multi-vitamin with folic acid to help prevent some birth defects.” Multi-vitamins are available at no cost to women, age 13-48 years, through a program at the Health Department.