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National Birth Defects Awareness Month

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The Rutherford Polk McDowell Health District is joining the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN) to increase awareness on birth defects, the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States. January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month and this year Rutherford Polk McDowell Health District is actively focusing on helping healthcare professionals and the general public to take positive steps to reduce the risk of congenital heart defects. Congenital heart defects are one of the most common types of birth defect and some forms may be preventable through healthy life style choices and medical interventions before and during pregnancy. In addition to information about prevention, the NBDPN offers support to
families who are dealing with the realities of a child born with one of these conditions.

Congenital heart defects include abnormalities of the heart that are present at birth. Some have only a minor and brief effect on a baby’s health and some have very serious and lifelong effects. Nearly 40,000 cases (approximately 1 in 110 live births) are reported annually in the US.  Public awareness, accurate diagnosis, and expert medical care are all essential for adequate prevention and management of these all too common and deadly conditions.

Studies have demonstrated several important steps women can take to help prevent congenital heart defects in newborns. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant are advised to:

  • Avoid all alcohol and illegal/recreational drugs.
  • Avoid exposure to smoke, chemicals and toxins both at work and at home.
  • Take a folic acid supplement and check with their healthcare provider to confirm that you are getting adequate amounts of all the essential nutrients.
  • See a physician prior to pregnancy, especially if there are medical conditions which require medications, any known metabolic conditions including diabetes, obesity, phenyketonuria (PKU), or a family history of congenital heart defects.
  • Diabetic or obese women should make sure that blood sugar is under control and work toward a healthy weight through a nutritious food plan prior to conception.
  • Receive regular medical check-ups and educate themselves about their family history and potential genetic risks

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