January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month.
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Birth defects are serious conditions that are changes to the structure of one or more parts of the body. Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year.
Every 4 ½ minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect in the United States. That translates into nearly 120,000 babies affected by birth defects each year.
Birth defects can affect almost any part of the body (e.g., heart, brain, foot). They may affect how the body looks, works, or both. Birth defects can vary from mild to severe. The well-being of each child affected with a birth defect depends mostly on which organ or body part is involved and how much it is affected. Depending on the severity of the defect and what body part is affected, the expected lifespan of a person with a birth defect may or may not be affected.
Not all birth defects can be prevented. But a woman can increase her own chances of having a healthy baby by managing health conditions and adopting healthy behaviors before becoming pregnant. This is important because many birth defects happen very early during pregnancy, sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Read below for some steps a woman can take to get ready for a healthy pregnancy and continue throughout pregnancy.
Get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
Avoid alcohol at any time during pregnancy.
Avoid smoking cigarettes or using “street” drugs.
Talk to a health care provider about taking any medications.
Talk to your doctor about vaccinations (shots).
Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Keep diabetes under control.
See a health care professional regularly.
This information was taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Please visit their site for additional information.