In the U.S., birth defects are the leading cause of infant deaths and the second leading cause of death in children ages one to four. More than 120,000 babies are born with a birth defect (about 1 in every 33 live births or every 4½ minutes) – 2,000 of them in Minnesota. Some have only a minor and brief effect while others are life-threatening or life-long.
The Minnesota Department of Health, the National Birth Defects Prevention Network and the Minnesota March of Dimes are promoting awareness of ways to prevent birth defects during this National Birth Defects Prevention Month.
One big key to prevention? Folic acid.
Martha Overby, director of programs and government affairs for the March of Dimes in Minnesota, said, “All women of reproductive age should be taking a multivitamin containing folic acid every day because it has been shown to prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine.”
To help prevent birth defects, studies have shown that women who are pregnant or could become pregnant should:
• 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.
• Talk to a health care provider about taking any medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
• Avoid alcohol, smoking, and illicit drugs.
• See a health care provider regularly.
• Avoid toxic substances at work or at home.
• Ensure protection against domestic violence.
• Know their family history and seek reproductive genetic counseling, if appropriate.
Read more from Minnesota Department of Health.