Pregnant women urged to defend against birth defects

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services encourages women who are pregnant or who hope to become pregnant to talk with their health care provider, as well as take steps to prevent against infections that could cause birth defects. (Courtesy photo)

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Health is an important factor for soon-to-be mothers to keep in mind when getting ready to add a new member to the family.

Gov. Rick Snyder has proclaimed January as National Birth Defects Awareness Month in Michigan and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is joining with organizations including the National Birth Defects Prevention Network, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the March of Dimes, the Teratology Society and MothertoBaby, to urge women to take steps in reducing their risk of getting an infection during pregnancy.

According to a MDHHS release, a baby is born with a birth defect approximately every 4.5 minutes in the United States, equaling about 120,000 babies each year. In Michigan, the statistic is an estimated 1 in 33 of the 113,000 babies born annually come into the world with a serious birth defect.

“National Birth Defects Awareness Month is an opportunity to make sure women are aware of risks,” said Lynn Sutfin, spokesperson for MDHHS.

A campaign, “Prevent to Protect: Prevent Infections for Baby’s Protection,” emphasizes the importance of preventing infections that can increase the risk of having a baby with a birth defect before and during pregnancy, according to the MDHHS release. Birth defects are the most common cause of death in the first year of life and the second most common cause of death in children aged 1 to 4 years.

To help prevent infections, women can get their regular vaccinations, as well as get the flu shot and whooping cough vaccine. While it may be cold here, Sutfin said women who are traveling to warmer climates should prevent against insect bites with repellents and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outside, as well as avoid visiting areas where the Zika virus is present.

Sutfin also said women should practice good hygiene, wash their hands often with soap and water and, if there are other youngsters in the house, mothers should avoid putting children’s pacifiers and cups in their mouths.

Women also should talk to their healthcare provider about preventing infections, should eat a healthy diet, be physically active and take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day, the MDHHS release states.

“Having a baby is already a big responsibility,” Sutfin said. “These are things women can do to help ensure they have a happy, healthy baby.”

 

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Posted by Meghan Gunther-Haas

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