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National Birth Defects Prevention Month and National Folic Acid Awareness Week

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, and January 8--14 is National Folic Acid Awareness Week. Birth defects affect approximately one in 33 newborns in the United States. The cost of lifetime care for infants born in a single year with one or more of 17 severe birth defects has been estimated at $6 billion (1).

CDC has issued recommendations for all women and men of childbearing age to improve their health throughout their lifespans, especially if they are planning to have children (2). Health-care professionals should encourage men and women to adopt healthy behaviors, such as having regular medical check-ups, planning their pregnancy with their partner, and avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs.

For women, taking the B vitamin folic acid before and during early pregnancy can prevent serious birth defects of the spine and brain; however, folic acid use has not changed substantially (3). Information about CDC's birth defect--prevention activities is available at, and information about National Birth Defects Prevention Month is available at


  1. CDC. Economic costs of birth defects and cerebral palsy---United States, 1992. MMWR 1995;44:694--9.
  2. CDC. Recommendations to improve preconception health and health care---United States. A report of the CDC/ATSDR Preconception Care Work Group and the Select Panel on Preconception Care. MMWR 2006;55(No. RR-6).
  3. CDC. Use of dietary supplements containing folic acid among women of childbearing age---United States, 2005. MMWR 2005; 54:955--8.

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Date last reviewed: 1/4/2007


Safer, Healthier People

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
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