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Birth Anomalies
Raising Awareness of Birth Defects

The Oregon Public Health Division is joining the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN) to increase awareness of birth defects, the leading cause of infant deaths in the United States. In fact, every 4½ minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect in the United States.

 

 
You can reduce your risk

The risk for many types of birth defects can be reduced through healthy lifestyle choices and medical care before and during pregnancy. Studies have demonstrated several important steps women can take to help prevent birth defects.

Even small steps like visiting a healthcare provider before pregnancy and taking a multivitamin every day are helpful.

Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant are advised 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 medical history and seek reproductive genetic counseling, if appropriate
About birth defects

There are many different kinds of birth defects including heart defects, cleft lip or palate, defects of the brain and spine, bones, muscles and internal organs, and a variety of genetic syndromes such as Down syndrome. Some have only a minor and brief effect on a baby’s health while others have life-threatening or life-long effects, which can often be lessened by early detection and treatment.

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

Most people are unaware of how common, costly and critical birth defects are in the United States, or that there are simple steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of birth defects. The health of both parents prior to pregnancy can affect the risk of having a child with a birth defect. Food intake, life-style choices, factors in the environment, health conditions and medications before and during pregnancy all can play a role in reducing or increasing the risk of birth defects.

The National Birth Defects Prevention Network works with healthcare professionals and public health agencies around the country to encourage prevention and awareness of birth defects among the over 60 million women of childbearing age in the United States. The NBDPN works to improve nationwide surveillance of birth defects and to advance research on possible causes, and offers support to families who are dealing with the realities of a child born with one of these conditions.

To learn more, please contact Suzanne Zane, suzanne.zane@state.or.us or by phone at 971-673-0559.