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January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month

Inherited heart defects are among the most common type of defects infants can have at birth. It might surprise many people to know that there are steps that expectant Maryland mothers can take to prevent some forms of defects, or at least reduce the chance that a newborn will suffer extended long-term effects because of the problem.

As it happens, January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. That means that public health officials are stepping up efforts to elevate awareness among the general public and health care professionals about the issue. The hope is to limit risks of congenital heart troubles. Accurate diagnosis and adequate care are seen as key in countering complications from prenatal care negligence.

Statistically, these kinds of birth defects are rated as the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States. Official figures indicate that they account for nearly 1 in 25 births. Health officials note that some are preventable if mothers can be guided in following a healthy lifestyle plan and get essential medical treatments ahead of and during pregnancies. They say monitoring and proper use of medications can be important too.

All these awareness efforts are offered under the aegis of the National Birth Defects Prevention Network. The national organization offers the following tips that women who are pregnant, or who become pregnant, should follow:

  • Don't drink alcohol or use illegal or recreational drugs.
  • Be aware of and avoid toxic environments at home and work (smoke, chemicals, etc.).
  • Work with a health care provider to be sure you're nutritional needs are being met.
  • If you have a known medical condition such as obesity, diabetes, or a family history of defects, see a doctor before becoming pregnant.
  • Visit the doctor regularly during the pregnancy to monitor possible issues.

Source: The Daily Jeffersonian, "National Birth Defects Prevention Month raises attention," Jan. 26, 2012

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