Leading Health Experts Emphasize 5 Effective Ways To Prevent Birth Defects

(INDIANAPOLIS) – The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) is joining with leading prenatal health organizations during National Birth Defects Prevention Month in January to increase awareness of five critical tips to reduce the chances of having a baby with a birth defect.

Reducing Indiana’s infant mortality rate is a top priority for ISDH and Governor Holcomb, who has set a goal of having the lowest infant mortality rate in the Midwest by 2024. Birth defects are the second-leading cause of infant deaths in Indiana. Congenital malformations, such as cardiovascular, chromosomal, central nervous system and musculoskeletal defects, contributed to nearly one in five infant deaths in Indiana in 2017. Approximately 2,500 Indiana babies are born with birth defects each year.
“Every 4.5 minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect in the United States,” said State Health Commissioner Kris Box, MD, FACOG. “While we can’t prevent all birth defects, we can increase a woman’s chance of having a healthy baby and help more babies celebrate their first birthdays in Indiana.”
The National Birth Defects Prevention Network’s awareness campaign theme “Best for You. Best for Baby” aims to raise awareness of these five tips:

  • Be sure to take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Folic acid is important because it can help prevent some major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine.
  • Book a visit with your healthcare provider before stopping or starting any medication. There are often benefits to continuing treatment throughout pregnancy. Discussing a treatment plan before a pregnancy allows a woman and her healthcare provider to weigh the pros and cons of all options to keep mom and baby as healthy as possible.
  • Become up-to-date with all vaccines, including the flu shot. Having the right vaccinations, like the flu and Tdap vaccines, at the right time during pregnancy can help keep a woman and her baby healthy.
  • Before you get pregnant, try to reach a healthy weight. Obesity increases the risk for several serious birth defects and other pregnancy complications.
  • Boost your health by avoiding harmful substances during pregnancy, such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy, and exposure can cause significant birth defects. Smoking during pregnancy can cause dangerous chemicals to damage the placenta and/or reach baby’s bloodstream. The national opioid epidemic has led to a sharp increase in premature birth and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), which is drug withdrawal in developing babies.

ISDH encourages health advocates as well as the general public to be active participants in National Birth Defects Prevention Month, which is also supported by experts from the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics, the March of Dimes, Teratology Society and MotherToBaby.
The complete 2019 NBDPN Birth Defects Prevention Month information packet, including this year’s primary tips for birth defects prevention, is available online at www.birthdefects.gov. All materials can be printed, electronically conveyed, or added to websites for distribution as needed. Additionally, resources are available through the ISDH Liv app, a mobile application for women who are pregnant, parenting or planning to be. It is available for Apple and Android users by searching for Liv Pregnancy App.
Visit the Indiana State Department of Health at http://www.in.gov/isdh/ or follow us on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/isdh1.