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January Marks National Birth Defects Prevention Month

Thursday, December 28, 2017
For Release: December 28, 2017 – Cody McDonell, Office of Communications (405) 271-5601
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) joins public health partners across the nation in recognizing National Birth Defects Prevention Month to increase awareness of birth defects, the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States.
In the United States, a baby is born with a birth defect every 4 1/2 minutes. Nearly 120,000 babies are affected by birth defects each year in the U.S., with more than 2,100 cases occurring in Oklahoma. Birth defects are the most common cause of death in the first year of life, and the second most common cause of death in children 1 to 4 years old.
Although not all birth defects can be prevented, steps can be taken to increase a woman’s chance of having a healthy baby.
“Most people don’t know how common, costly, and critical birth defects are in the United States, or that there are simple steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of birth defects,” said Lisa Caton, the director of Screening and Special Services at the OSDH.
During the month of January, the OSDH will focus on four main areas to increase awareness concerning birth defects.
Alcohol use during pregnancy
Any amount of alcohol is unsafe to drink during pregnancy. Drinking alcohol while pregnant can hurt the baby’s brain, heart, kidneys, and other organs.
Drinking during pregnancy can lead to a group of conditions called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs). These effects can include physical problems and problems with behavior and learning.
Folic acid awareness
Folic acid is an essential B-vitamin that the body needs to make new cells. Everyone needs folic acid every day. It is important for women because it can help prevent up to 70 percent of Neural Tube Defects (NTDs). NTDs are serious birth defects that occur when the brain and spine are forming during the first 28 days of pregnancy before most women know they are pregnant.
The OSDH provides free multivitamins and folic acid education materials at the local county health departments. It also provides education about birth defects and folic acid to health care professionals and community members across Oklahoma. Individuals can contact their local county health department for materials or visit the Oklahoma Birth Defects Registry website for a link to an order form.
Vaccinations help protect the mother and child against serious diseases. Pregnant women or women who may become pregnant should get a Tdap shot. This helps protect the mother from whooping cough and passes along some protection to the baby.
Congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) health care provider information
CMV is common in young children and is found in saliva and urine. Exposure during pregnancy increases the risk for certain birth defects in the unborn baby. Health care providers should encourage their patients to avoid putting a young child’s cup or pacifier in their mouth to reduce the risk of CMV infection.
It is important to wash your hands for 20 seconds after contact with bodily fluids to reduce the risk of getting sick.
Health care providers can find more information, including talking points for patients, at this link:
For more information on how to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, visit the Oklahoma Birth Defects Registry website at Media wanting more information or an interview should contact OSDH Public Information Officer Cody McDonell by emailing or calling (405) 271-5601.
Last Modified on Jun 03, 2022
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