KDHE: Simple steps can reduce risk of birth defects – Osage County Online | Osage County News

KDHE: Simple steps can reduce risk of birth defects

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is joining the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities and the National Birth Defects Prevention Network in commemorating National Birth Defects Prevention Month. This year’s theme is “Birth Defects are Common, Costly, and Critical.” The national campaign aims to increase awareness of birth defects, the leading cause of infant mortality 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 age one to four years. More than 120,000 babies are born with a birth defect (approximately 1 in every 33 live births) each year in the United States. According to KDHE’s Office of Vital Statistics, 1,250 cases occur in Kansas each year. Public awareness, expert medical care, accurate and early diagnosis, and social support systems are all essential for optimal prevention and treatment.

KDHE is actively focusing on raising awareness among healthcare professionals, educators, social service professionals, and many segments of the general public about the frequency with which birth defects occur in the United States and the steps that can be taken to prevent them, such as promoting the benefits of folic acid before and during pregnancy. Consistent consumption of folic acid has been shown by research to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects by as much as 70 percent.

“Most people are unaware there are simple steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of birth defects. Through the efforts across the county, we plan to reach millions of women and their families with vital prevention information,” said Rachel Berroth, director of the KDHE Bureau of Family Health.

There are many different 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. Some defects 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.

Studies have demonstrated that the risk for many types of birth defects can be reduced through healthy lifestyle choices and medical care before and during pregnancy. 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
  • See a healthcare provider regularly
  • Talk to a health care provider about taking any medications, both prescription and over-the-counter
  • Avoid alcohol, smoking, and illicit drugs
  • Avoid toxic substances at work or at home
  • Ensure protection against domestic violence
  • Know their family history and seek reproductive genetic counseling, if appropriate

“The health of both parents prior to pregnancy can affect the risk of having a child with a birth defect. Nutrition, lifestyle choices, environmental factors, health conditions, and medications before and during pregnancy all play a role in reducing or increasing the risk of birth defects,” said Berroth.

Please visit the NCBDDD’s birth defects website at www.cdc.gov/birthdefects for more information, including the latest research, data and statistics, podcasts, and more.

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