Birth defects and infant disorders are common, costly, and critical conditions that can cause lifelong health challenges. Birth defects are structural changes that can affect almost any part of the body, such as the heart, brain or foot.
As medical care and treatment have improved, babies and children with birth defects are living longer and healthier lives. Recent reports show that rates of infant deaths due to birth defects have declined by 10% in the United States. However, every 4½ minutes a baby is born with a major birth defect in the United States. That’s why North Dakota Health and Human Services (HHS) is promoting Birth Defects Prevention Month and working to increase awareness.
The 2023 Birth Defects Prevention Month campaign theme, “Healthy Communities, Healthy Babies” aims to raise awareness of the roughly 1 in 33 babies that are born in the United States with a birth defect each year. In 2021, birth defects affected an estimated 43 infants in North Dakota.
“While we can’t prevent all birth defects, we can promote healthy choices before and during pregnancy to help lower the risk,” explained Kimberly Hruby, HHS Special Health Services director.
Examples of such healthy choices to reduce risk are to:
- Take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day
- Schedule a visit with your health care provider
- Reduce your risk of infections and be up to date with vaccines
- Care for your body and mind before and during pregnancy to set you and your baby up for success
- Avoid harmful substances during pregnancy, such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs
“Birth defects are a common cause of death in the first year of a baby’s life, but change happens through awareness,” added Hruby. HHS encourages everyone to be an active participant in raising awareness during National Birth Defects Prevention Month!