Did you know that many birth defects are preventable? Every January, the National Birth Defects Prevention Network makes that message loud and clear by promoting January as Birth Defects Prevention Month. It’s important information to know, since birth defects are:
· Common: 1 in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect (that’s one baby born with a birth defect every 4½ minutes).
· Costly: Each year, treating birth defects cost $2.6 billion in hospital costs alone.
· Critical: Birth defects are the cause of death for 1 in every 5 infants that pass away before their first birthday.
In the US, about 120,000 babies every year are born with birth defects. While not all birth defects can be prevented, there are many things you can do to increase your chances of having a healthy baby. About half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and many birth defects occur before a woman even knows she is pregnant. With that in mind, it’s important that ALL women of childbearing age:
- Take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid—the amount found in a typical multivitamin—every day
- Eat a healthy diet
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and street drugs
- See a health care provider regularly
- Ask a health care provider about any medications (prescription and over-the-counter) medications that might be harmful to their growing baby
Want more folic acid? Folate is the natural form of folic acid that is found in foods. Good sources include fruits (like oranges and orange juice), green leafy vegetables (like spinach and turnip greens), and dried beans and peas. These are foods that rank high in other nutrients, too, so you get even more benefits! Breads, cereals, flour and other grain products have folic acid added to them, so they are also good choices. (For extra nutrition, try to make at least half your grains whole. Look for the word “whole” as the first ingredient on food labels.)
For more information about how you can prevent birth defects, visit:
National Birth Defects Prevention Network
Massachusetts Folic Acid Initiative
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