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Announcement: 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 (1,2). Lifetime care for all infants born in a single year with one or more of 17 severe birth defects has been estimated at $6 billion (3).

This year, the focus is on diabetes and birth defects. Diabetes is often diagnosed in women during their childbearing years and can affect the health of both the mother and her unborn child. Poor control of diabetes in a woman who is pregnant increases the chances for birth defects and other problems for the baby (4). Proper health care before and during pregnancy can help prevent birth defects associated with risks, including diabetes, and other poor outcomes, such as miscarriage or stillbirth.

January 4--10 is National Folic Acid Awareness Week. Consuming 400 µg of folic acid daily, before and during early pregnancy, will help reduce a woman's risk for pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect (5). Health-care professionals should encourage women who can become pregnant to consume folic acid daily through a vitamin supplement or enriched foods. Additional information regarding prevention of birth defects is available at http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd.

References

  1. CDC. Update on overall prevalence of major birth defects---Atlanta, Georgia, 1978--2005. MMWR 2008;57:1--5.
  2. Hoyert DL, Mathews TJ, Menacker F, et al. Annual summary of vital statistics: 2004. Pediatrics 2006;117:168--83.
  3. CDC. Economic costs of birth defects and cerebral palsy---United States, 1992. MMWR 1995;44:694--9.
  4. Correa A, Gilboa SM, Besser LM, et al. Diabetes mellitus and birth defects. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2008;199:237.e1--9.
  5. CDC. Recommendations 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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Date last reviewed: 1/6/2010

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