Birth Defects Prevention Month

During National Birth Defects Prevention Month in January, the Michigan Department of Community Health is joining with the National Birth Defects Prevention Network to raise awareness of birth defects which are a leading cause of infant mortality and chronic illness.

Raising awareness about birth defects is closely in line with Gov. Rick Snyder’s call to reduce infant mortality rates in order to improve the health status of Michigan as a whole.

Birth defects are a serious problem. Thousands of Michigan children and their families are affected each year, Michigan Department of Community Health officials said.

Birth defects can occur before or at the time of birth. A birth defect may affect the health or development of a child and require special medical care.

A baby is born with a birth defect in the United States every four and a half minutes. Healthy lifestyle choices as well as medical care before and during pregnancy can reduce these chances, resulting in better infant health outcomes for all resident.

“Most people simply do not realize how common, costly and critical birth defects are in Michigan, as well as nationally, or that there are simple steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of birth defects,” said James K. Haveman, Director of the Michigan Department of Community Health. “Through awareness efforts across the country we can reach millions of women and their families with vital prevention information.”

More than 120,000 babies born with a birth defect (approximately 1 in every 33 live births) are reported each year in the United States with around 7,000 cases occurring in Michigan.

Some have only a minor and brief effect on a baby’s health while others have life-threatening or life-long effects. Birth defects are the most common cause of death in infants and the second most common cause of death in children aged one to four years.

Throughout National Birth Defects Prevention Month, the Michigan Department of Community Health will work to raise awareness among health care professionals, educators, social service professionals, and many segments of the general public about the frequency with which birth defects occur and the steps that can be taken to prevent them.

Small steps such as visiting a health care provider before pregnancy and taking a multivitamin every day can make a significant difference towards protecting the health of women and babies.

Public awareness, appropriate medical care, accurate and early diagnosis, and social support systems are all essential for ensuring prevention and treatment of these common and often deadly conditions.

Experts encourage all pregnant women and those who may become pregnant to:

– Consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.

– Manage chronic maternal illnesses such as diabetes, seizure disorders, or phenylketonuria (PKU).

– Reach and maintain a healthy weight.

– Talk to a health care provider about taking any medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.

– Avoid alcohol, smoking, and illicit drugs.

– See a health care provider regularly.

– Avoid toxic substances at work or at home.

– Ensure protection against domestic violence.

– Know their family history and seek reproductive genetic counseling, if appropriate.

According to the he Michigan Department of Community Health:

– About 8 percent of the 127,537 newborns in 2006 were diagnosed with a birth defect by one year of age.

– Around 3 percent of live births from 2000-2008 were diagnosed with MAJOR birth defects. These defects include but are not limited to: anencephaly, cleft palate, Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, hypospadias and Tetralogy of Fallot.

– Anomalies of the heart and circulatory system account for 21 percent of the birth defects reported to the MBDR.

– In 2006, the fatality rate was 32.8 deaths per 1,000 babies reported with birth defects, compared to 7.4 deaths per 1,000 live births for all infants.