January is National Birth Defects Awareness Month. About one in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect. Although not all birth defects can be prevented, people can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by managing health conditions and adopting healthy behaviors before becoming pregnant.
Birth defects (sometimes referred to as “birth anomalies”) affect around 2000 infants in Oregon each year and are a leading cause of infant mortality. Babies who survive and live with birth anomalies are at an increased risk for developing many lifelong physical, cognitive, and social challenges.
What Can You Do?
Encourage the people in your life who are pregnant or may become pregnant to:
- Take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
- Plan a visit with their healthcare provider to support a healthy pregnancy. Make sure to discuss medication and supplement use, family medical history, mental health, and social supports.
- Reduce their risk of infections by staying up to date with all vaccines.
- Care for their body and mind before, during, and after pregnancy.
- Avoid harmful substances during pregnancy, such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
Meeting the complex needs of a person with birth anomalies involves the whole family and can be challenging at times. But finding resources, knowing what to expect, and planning for the future can help. Early intervention services and supports can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to learn new skills, overcome challenges, and increase success in school and life.