Health Officials Offer Tips to Prevent Birth Defects

(INDIANAPOLIS) – Birth defects are the second-leading cause of infant deaths in Indiana, and about 2,500 Indiana babies are born with birth defects each year. Congenital malformations, such as cardiovascular, chromosomal, central nervous system and musculoskeletal defects, contributed to about one in five infant deaths in Indiana in 2018.

Governor Eric J. Holcomb has made having the lowest infant mortality rate in the Midwest by 2024 a top priority of his administration.

To help accomplish this, 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.

“While we can’t prevent all birth defects, we can increase a woman’s chance of having a healthy baby by helping her to be healthier when she conceives,” said State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG. 

The National Birth Defects Prevention Network’s awareness campaign theme, “Best for You. Best for Baby,” aims to raise awareness of these five tips:

  1. Take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Folic acid is very important because it can help prevent some major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine.
  2. Schedule a visit with your healthcare provider before stopping or starting any medicine. 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.
  3. Become up-to-date with all vaccines, including the flu shot. Having the right vaccinations, like the influenza and Tdap vaccines, at the right time during pregnancy can help keep a woman and her baby healthy.
  4. Before you get pregnant, try to reach a healthy weight. Obesity increases the risk for several serious birth defects and other pregnancy complications.
  5. Avoid harmful substances during pregnancy, such as alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy, and exposure to alcohol can cause significant birth defects. Smoking during pregnancy can cause dangerous chemicals to damage the placenta and/or reach the baby’s bloodstream, and the opioid epidemic has led to a sharp increase in neonatal abstinence syndrome, premature birth and 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, March of Dimes, Teratology Society and MotherToBaby.

The complete 2020 NBDPN Birth Defects Prevention Month information packet, including this year’s primary prevention tips, is available online at 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 pregnant. It is available for Apple and Android users by searching for Liv Pregnancy App.

Visit the Indiana State Department of Health at or follow us on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at