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Announcements: National Birth Defects Prevention Month

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). This year, National Birth Defects Prevention Month focuses on medication use before, during, and after pregnancy. This includes over-the-counter or prescription medications and herbal or dietary products.

Approximately two thirds of women use at least one medication during their pregnancy (3,4). Because of the possible risks to the unborn baby, pregnant women are not included in the testing of new medications. As a result, little information is available about the safety of taking most medications during pregnancy. Better data will allow women and their health-care providers to make informed decisions about treatment during pregnancy and evaluate the risks and benefits of treatment.

CDC's National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS) helps identify medications that can increase the risk for birth defects. NBDPS data have been used to understand the risks associated with specific antidepressants, antibiotics, and antihypertensives.

Health-care providers should speak with their patients who are planning to become pregnant about the need for any medications, including prescription or over-the-counter medications and herbal or dietary products, and ensure that these patients are only taking necessary medications. Additional information about 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, Strobino DM, Guyer B. Annual summary of vital statistics: 2004. Pediatrics 2006;117:168--83.
  3. Andrade SE, Gurwitz JH, Davis RL, et al. Prescription drug use in pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2004;191:398--407.
  4. Werler MM, Mitchell AA, Hernandez-Diaz S, Honein MA. Use of over-the-counter medications during pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2005;193:771--7.


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