January is Birth Defects Prevention Month and this year’s theme is “Birth Defects are Common, Costly, and Critical.”
Every year birth defects cause newborn mortality, life-long physical and cognitive issues, and hospital costs that exceed $3 billion dollars.
There are birth defects that are not preventable, yet there are birth defects that can be diagnosed before birth. Safeguards taken before conception can help prevent birth defects, and precautions taken during pregnancy will give your baby an additional “jump” on life.
Birth defects are commonplace and affect one in thirty-three babies born every year. This results in almost one in five infant deaths. The genetic cause of birth defects is unknown and research is continually studying the part heredity plays in those babies born with birth defects.
Factors known to be culprits in birth defects include the use of tobacco and alcohol, uncontrolled diabetes, failure to take folic acid daily and poor pre-prenatal care. If you are anticipating becoming pregnant in the near future, how you take care of your pre-pregnant body is very important.
One specific week, January 6-12, 2013, is National Folic Acid Awareness Week. The Center for Disease Control stresses that every woman who is of childbearing age consume at 400 mg or more of folic acid every single day. Keep taking folic acid before conceiving and during pregnancy. Folic acid reduces the risk for major birth defects of the spine and brain. You can take folic acid in fortified foods, supplements, or by eating a diet rich in folates. Be sure you are eating beans and legumes that are rich in proteins, potassium, calcium and folic acid. If you eat a cup of beans daily you will get up to half your total daily folate needs. Love green beans? These are not the beans that hold large stores of folate. Eat hard beans that need cooking.
Crave cooked spinach with a little butter and vinegar? You will receive up to 260 micrograms of folate if you eat lightly cooked spinach. Eat asparagus, kale and broccoli for more folate. Fortified cereals and breads plus citrus fruits and livers are very high in natural folate. If you eat liver and onions you will receive almost 70 percent of your daily folate recommendations.
Ultrasounds and amniocentesis can be used to detect birth defects if you suspect that there is something “wrong” with your baby. These two tests alone can detect spina bifida, heart defects and Downs”s syndrome. These checks are import to prepare families for the future and to know what path to take in regards to newborn care.
Some easy and logical way to prevent birth defects include washing hands often after using the restroom, touching raw meats or vegetables that have been sprayed with pesticides. Be very careful to wash your hands after handling pets, gardening or even caring for small children. Avoid alcohol at all costs during pregnancy. It has been documented that there is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy will include physical as well as behavioral and learning problems. These problems will last a lifetime.