Concord, NH – During the month of January, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the New Hampshire Birth Conditions Program (NHBCP) are joining the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN) to increase awareness of birth defects, the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States and in New Hampshire. More than 120,000 babies are born with a birth defect in the United States, which is approximately 1 every 4½ minutes, each year and about 300 of those cases occur in New Hampshire. However, the risk for many types of birth defects can be reduced through healthy lifestyle choices and medical interventions before and during pregnancy.
“Most people are unaware of how common, costly, and critical birth defects are in the United States,” said Dr. José Montero, Public Health Director at DHHS, “or that there are simple steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of birth defects. Diet, life-style choices, factors in the environment, maternal health conditions, and medications taken before and during pregnancy can all play a role in preventing or increasing the risk of birth defects.”
Studies have demonstrated several important steps women can take to help prevent birth defects. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant are advised to:
- Take 400 mcg of folic acid daily from the beginning of menstruation through menopause
- Eat a healthy diet and aim for a healthy weight, including enriched grains and fresh fruits and vegetables
- Keep diabetes under control
- Get a medical checkup before becoming pregnant
- Stop smoking and avoid second-hand smoke
- Stop drinking alcohol prior to pregnancy or as soon into pregnancy as possible
- Do not take illegal drugs
- Use contraception if taking medications that increase the risk for birth defects
- Know your family medical history and potential genetic risks
This January, the NHBCP and DHHS are working to promote folic acid awareness and its role in the prevention of birth defects. The New Hampshire Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program will offer raffles where women can win one of 12 baskets with a one-year supply of multivitamins, foods rich in folic acid, cooking supplies, and a grocery store gift card to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables. This promotion is free to enter for anyone coming to a participating WIC clinic during the month of January.