January 02, 2018

Governor proclaims January 2018 as Missouri Birth Defects Prevention and Awareness Month

JEFFERSON CITY, MO - The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the office of Governor Greitens have proclaimed January 2018 as Missouri Birth Defects Prevention and Awareness Month in coordination with the National Birth Defects Network (NBDPN), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the March of Dimes, the Teratology Society and MothertoBaby. During the 2018 campaign \"Prevent to Protect: Prevent Infections for Baby's Protection,\" special emphasis is focused on the importance of preventing infections before and during pregnancy that can increase the risk of having a baby with a birth defect.

DHSS is actively working to raise awareness of how common birth defects are and what steps can help to prevent them. In Missouri, approximately eight percent of all babies are born with a birth defect, and in 2014 approximately 19 percent of infant deaths had birth defects as an underlying cause. 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 one to four years.

Dr. Randall Williams, director of DHSS, said, \"As an OB-GYN, healthy pregnancies, mothers and babies are something I care deeply about. I am excited that Governor Greitens has also made it a priority to do what he can to protect families and unborn children through awareness and prevention with Missouri's Birth Defects Prevention and Awareness Month in January.\"

Congenital heart defects are the leading cause of birth defect deaths and illness, with 17 per 100,000 babies born with critical congenital heart defects. These can be life threatening and require intervention during infancy.

Although not all birth defects can be prevented, many steps can be taken to increase a woman's chance of having a healthy baby. It is important to prevent those infections that can increase the risk of birth defects and other health problems for mothers and babies.

Here are some helpful tips for pregnant women or women who may become pregnant:

Practice Healthy Habits

  • Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.

  • Eat a healthy diet and be physically active.

  • Seek prenatal care early in your pregnancy.

Get vaccinated.

  • Get the flu shot and the whooping cough vaccine.

  • Become up-to-date with all vaccines before getting pregnant.

Prevent insect bites.

  • Use insect repellent.

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outside.

Practice good hygiene.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.

  • Avoid putting a young child's cup or pacifier in your mouth.

Talk to your health care provider.

  • Ask about how you can prevent infections, such as Zika virus.

  • Discuss how to prevent sexually transmitted infections.

In addition to following these tips to prevent infections, all women capable of becoming pregnant should abstain from alcohol, tobacco and avoid secondhand smoke and other harmful chemicals, including illegal drugs. These steps can go a long way in promoting a healthy you and a healthy baby.

DHSS encourages you to be an active participant in National Birth Defects Prevention and Awareness Month. Additional materials and resources are available at http://health.mo.gov/living/families/genetics/birthdefects/index.php, www.CDC.gov/ncbddd, www.marchofdimes.org, www.healthychildren.org, www.MothertoBaby.org and www.Teratology.org.

About the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: The department seeks to be the leader in promoting, protecting and partnering for health. More information about DHSS can be found at health.mo.gov.