Birth defects are more common than you think

Written by Chronicle Staff. Posted in Uncategorized

Published on May 21, 2014 with No Comments

Every four-and-a-half minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect in the United States. Birth defects can vary from mild to severe and can affect almost any part of the body. The well-being of the child depends mostly on which organ or body part is involved and how much it is affected.

“Many people are unaware of how common birth defects are,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. “In fact, they are the leading cause of infant mortality in Indiana. Protecting our babies by reducing infant mortality is the top priority of the Indiana State Department of Health.”

A birth defect is a structural or metabolic abnormality most often present at birth or identified prenatally (before birth). There are many different kinds of birth defects including congenital 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. 

Birth defects are common and each year, total hospital costs for children and adults with birth defects exceed $2.6 billion in the United States. Birth defects affect about one in 33 babies born in Indiana each year.

While the causes of most birth defects have not yet been identified, there are several things that a woman can do to reduce the risk of having a baby with a birth defect. These include:

•Prior to pregnancy, talk to your doctor about preconception health care. This includes taking 400 micrograms of folic acid every day because if a woman has enough folic acid in her body at least one month before and during pregnancy, it can help prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine.

•Don’t drink alcohol, smoke, or use “street” drugs

•If possible, be sure any medical conditions are under control, before becoming pregnant. Some conditions that increase the risk for birth defects include diabetes and obesity.

•Get early prenatal care and go to every medical appointment.

•Talk with your doctor about any medicine (prescription or over-the-counter) you are taking.

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•Keep vaccinations up-to-date.

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•Talk with your doctor about your home and work environments.

For assistance before, during or after pregnancy, call the Indiana Family Helpline at 1-855-HELP-1ST (1-855-435-7178). For more information, visit www.StateHealth.in.gov.

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