National Birth Defects Prevention Month

January 5, 2018

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about three percent of babies are born with a birth defect each year. Common birth defects include congenital heart defects, cleft lip and cleft palate, and spina bifida— which is an incomplete closing of the backbone. Birth defects can cause serious problems in a baby’s health and development, and are also the leading cause of infant mortality. January is Birth Defects Prevention Month, and 2018’s theme is “Prevent to Protect: Prevent Infections for Baby’s Protection”. What can you do to help?

Get Educated and Spread Awareness

Promoting awareness of the prevalence and danger of birth defects is important to make prevention possible. But it’s important to first learn about birth defects yourself and then spread the word.

Some birth defects are tied to genetics and can’t be prevented, but others can be. Here are a few ways the CDC suggests that a pregnant woman can reduce the risk of birth defects:

  • Avoid alcohol and cigarettes while pregnant.
  • Have a preconception check-up— the doctor will make sure you’re healthy, you’re up to date on your vaccinations, and that you aren’t taking medicine that will negatively affect your baby.
  • Wash your hands often to risk reduce of common infections.
  • Take folic acid, an essential B-vitamin, before and during the early stages of pregnancy.
  • If you have a cat, don’t change the cat litter. This will lessen your chance of getting toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite. Cats are the primary living host of the parasite, and it’s passed through their feces.

You might not be pregnant or have any plans to become pregnant, but your voice is a powerful tool, and you can make sure that the pregnant women in your life and in your community are aware of how common birth defects are and what they can do to prevent them.

Support GFWC Partner March of Dimes

Hosting a fundraiser for March of Dimes will help fund their research and programs that work to prevent birth defects.

Support GFWC Partner Operation Smile

While this month’s focus is on prevention of birth defects, that doesn’t mean treatment isn’t possible. Prevention should be prioritized, but there are still ways you can make a difference in the lives of children who have been born with birth defects. For example, you can support Operation Smile in its mission to provide free surgeries to children with cleft lip and cleft palate who don’t have access to safe surgery.

This January, spread the word about birth defects and support the organizations that work to make them less common.


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