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Announcement: National Birth Defects Prevention Month and Folic Acid Awareness Week — January 2012

This year, National Birth Defects Prevention Month focuses on one of the most common types of birth defects, congenital heart defects. Each year, nearly 40,000 infants in the United States are born with heart defects (1), which are a leading cause of death during the first year of life (2). As medical care and treatment have improved, persons with congenital heart defects are living longer lives. An estimated 1 million adults are now living with a heart defect (3,4). These persons face unique challenges with their health and require specialized lifelong care.

CDC's National Birth Defects Prevention Study has identified some modifiable maternal risk factors for congenital heart defects, including smoking during pregnancy (5), uncontrolled diabetes in pregnancy (6), and prepregnancy obesity (7). Health-care providers should talk with their patients of reproductive age and encourage them to quit smoking, control diagnosed diabetes, and strive to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Additional information about congenital heart defects is available at http://www.cdc.gov/heartdefects.

January 8–14 is National Folic Acid Awareness Week. Consuming folic acid daily before and during early pregnancy will help reduce the risk for neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly (8). Health-care providers should encourage every woman to consume 400 mcg of synthetic folic acid daily from fortified foods or supplements, or a combination of the two, in addition to consuming food folate from a varied diet. Additional information about folic acid is available at http://www.cdc.gov/folicacid.

References

  1. Hoffman JL, Kaplan S. The incidence of congenital heart disease. J Am Coll Cardiol 2002;39:1890–900.
  2. Yang Q, Chen H, Correa A, Devine O, Matthews TJ, Honein MA. Racial differences in infant mortality attributable to birth defects in the United States, 1989–2002. Birth Defects Res Part A 2006;76:706–13.
  3. Hoffman JI, Kaplan S, Liberthson RR. Prevalence of congenital heart disease. Am Heart J 2004;147:425–39.
  4. Marelli AJ, Mackie AS, Ionescu-Ittu R, Rahme E, Pilote L. Congenital heart disease in the general population: changing prevalence and age distribution. Circulation 2007;115:163–72.
  5. Malik S, Cleves MA, Honein MA, et al. Maternal smoking and congenital heart defects. Pediatrics 2008;121:e810–6.
  6. Correa A, Gilboa SM, Besser LM, et al. Diabetes mellitus and birth defects. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2008;199:237.e1–9.
  7. Gilboa SM, Correa A, Botto LD, et al. Association between prepregnancy body mass index and congenital heart defects. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2010;202:51.e1-51.e10.
  8. 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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