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National Birth Defects Prevention Month and Folic Acid Awareness Week

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. Birth defects affect approximately one in 33 newborns and are a leading cause of infant mortality in the United States (1). The cost of lifetime care for infants born in a single year with one or more of 17 severe birth defects was estimated at $6 billion in the most recent study (1).

This year, National Birth Defects Prevention Month focuses on preventing infections during pregnancy. Health-care professionals should encourage women who are pregnant or who might become pregnant to adopt behaviors that can prevent infections that might cause birth defects. For example, women can reduce their risk for cytomegalovirus infection by washing their hands often, especially after changing diapers, and by not sharing food, drinks, or eating utensils with young children. Additional information about preventing infections during pregnancy is available at http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/pregnancy_gateway/infection.htm.

January 7--13 is National Folic Acid Awareness Week. Health-care professionals should encourage every woman who might become pregnant to consume 400 µg of synthetic folic acid every day in a vitamin supplement or in foods enriched with folic acid. Following this regimen before and during early pregnancy can prevent serious birth defects of the spine and brain (2). Additional information about CDC's birth defects prevention activities is available at http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd.

References

  1. CDC. Economic costs of birth defects and cerebral palsy---United States, 1992. MMWR 1995;44:694--9.
  2. CDC. Recommendation for the use of folic acid to reduce the number of cases of spina bifida and other neural tube defects. MMWR 1992;41(No. RR-14).



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