January Is Birth Defects Prevention Month: Do What’s Best For Your Baby

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month, and although not all birth defects can be prevented, fortunately, there are steps you can take to help ensure that you have a healthy pregnancy and baby.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designated January for a nationwide effort to raise awareness of birth defects and the impact on families. Here are CDC suggestions to manage health conditions and adopt wholesome behaviors for delivering a healthy baby:

  • Try to reach a healthy weight before getting pregnant. Obesity increases the risk for serious birth defects and other complications.
  • Be sure to take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Folic acid can help prevent some major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine.
  • Visit your doctor’s office before stopping or starting any medicine. If you are planning to become pregnant, discuss your current medicines with a healthcare provider.
  • Get up-to-date with all vaccines, including the flu shot. Vaccines help protect you and your developing baby against serious diseases. Get a flu shot annually and a whooping cough vaccine (also called Tdap) during each pregnancy to help protect yourself and your baby.
  • Avoid substances that are harmful during pregnancy, such as alcohol and drugs. This can also include dangerous workplace chemicals often used in the semiconductor and electronics manufacturing industry, energy production and fracking, as well as pesticides used by farmworkers.

Victims of Birth Defects in the United States 

Nearly 120,000 babies are affected by birth defects each year. Birth defects are the leading cause of infant mortality, accounting for 20% of all infant deaths annually, according to the CDC.

Birth defects are structural changes present at birth that can affect almost any part or parts of the body, such as the heart, brain or even a foot. They may affect how the body looks, works or both. Birth defects can vary from mild to severe. The well-being of each child affected with a birth defect depends mostly on which organ or body part is involved and how much it is affected.

Depending on the severity of the disorder, the expected lifespan of a person with a birth defect may or may not be affected. The most common birth defects are genetic defects, such as Down syndrome; followed by mouth and facial defects, such as cleft lip and/or cleft palate; heart defects; musculoskeletal defects, including arm or leg defects; stomach and intestinal defects; and eye defects.

What Causes Birth Defects?

Some birth defects are caused by a mother’s behavior, such as fetal alcohol syndrome. But for most birth defects, the CDC says experts don’t know what causes them. Experts think some birth defects are genetic related, while others could be caused by environmental exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace, living nearby, or a combination, according to the CDC.

For example, living near a hazardous waste site has been identified as a possible risk factor for birth defects including spina bifida, cleft lip or palate, gastroschisis, hypospadias, chromosomal congenital anomalies such as Down syndrome, and some heart and blood vessel defects, the CDC said. Many birth defects are developed within the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Some endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and pesticides, have been linked to nervous system defects and developmental problems such as reduced muscle tone and response.

Preventing and Diagnosing Birth Defects

For more tips on preventing and diagnosing birth defects, check out this video from Springfield, MA’s WWLP 22News InFocus.

How We Help Birth Defects Victims

Seek justice with the help of our experienced birth defects attorneys. Our alliance of birth defects victims have represented people like you affected by birth defects caused by toxic exposure, aggressively fighting the corporate giants who failed to protect vulnerable workers. If you or a loved one was exposed to chemicals while pregnant and now have a child who suffers from a life-altering birth defect like spina bifida, muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy, we can help.