Birth Defects Prevention
On this page:
- What can you do to prevent birth defects?
- Preconception Health in Minnesota Grants
- Prevention Resources
Birth Defects are common, costly, and critical - the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) focuses on raising awareness of the prevalence of birth defects and strategies to reduce the risk of birth defects and their complications.
Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States, are a leading cause of infant mortality, and cost $22.9 billion per year in hospital costs. Babies who survive and live with birth defects are at increased risk for developing many lifelong physical, cognitive, and social challenges. Medical care and support services only scrape the surface of the financial and emotional impact of living with serious birth defects.
What can you do to prevent birth defects?
The risk for many birth defects can be reduced through healthy lifestyle choices and medical interventions before and during pregnancy. Please encourage all women who can become pregnant or are pregnant to lower their risk of having a baby with a birth defect by following some basic health guidelines throughout their reproductive years, including:
- Take 400mcg of folic acid daily from the beginning of menstruation through menopause. Folic acid is a B vitamin that is needed to make new cells, like skin, hair and nails. It also helps prevent some birth defects of the brain and spine if you have enough in your body before you become pregnant and during early pregnancy.
- Eat a healthy diet and aim for a healthy weight
- Keep diabetes under control
- Plan carefully. Use contraception if taking medications that increase the risk for birth defects
- See a health care professional regularly. Get a medical checkup before pregnancy and address specific health issues including weight control, control of diabetes, and any medications taken
- Know your family medical history, potential genetic risks and seek reproductive genetic counseling, if appropriate
- Don't drink alcohol at any time during pregnancy
- Don't smoke and avoid second hand smoke
- Don't use street drugs
- Talk to a health care provider about
- Taking any medications both prescription and over-the counter
- What you can do to prevent infections
- Protect yourself from animals and insects known to carry diseases such as Zika virus
- Properly prepare foods
- Maintain good hygiene
- Wash your hands often with soap and water
- Do not put a young child's food, utensils, drinking cups, or pacifiers in your mouth
Preconception Health in Minnesota Grants
The Preconception Health (PCH) Grant Projects began in 2012. The goal of the preconception health grant program is to improve preconception health and care for non-pregnant, reproductive age women and their partners in Minnesota. This is achieved through support of evidence-based preconception health practices and programs that prevent and/or reduce the risk for birth defects. A priority audience for this grant is women of reproductive age experiencing racial and ethnic disparities in health status. The most recent grants focus on reducing chronic disease known to increase the risk of birth defects.
In 2017, MDH awarded Preconception Health for Women grants to four organizations who were experienced providers of the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) that serve women of child-bearing age in Minnesota. The recipients of the 2017-2020 preconception grants are:
- Indian Health Board of Minneapolis. Audience: primarily American Indian population in Minneapolis
- Pillsbury United Communities - Audience: primarily African-American population in North Minneapolis.
- Regents of the University of Minnesota (Extension) - Audience: diverse populations in southeast (Dodge Center/Rochester), west central (Detroit Lakes), and the metro (Hennepin/Ramsey) regions of the state.
- West Side Community Health Services, Inc. Audience: primarily Hispanic population in St. Paul
National Birth Defects Prevention Month Resource Packet and other Materials
January is Birth Defects Prevention Month. The National Birth Defects Prevention Network develops a theme and resource packet. This packet contains educational and promotional materials, including ideas for sharing the packet, social media guidance, and partner resources.
Family Health History information
Knowing our family health history is very important for our health. A family's health history is the information about diseases and conditions in our extended families. This is a list of resources to help learn more about gathering and using family health histories to improve health. The information is to be shared with other family members and health care providers.
Maternal Exposure Fact Sheets from MotherToBaby
This site offers a series of fact sheets on "teratogens" - exposures that are known to interfere with fetal development. The fact sheets are developed by the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) and answer frequently asked questions about exposures during pregnancy.
CDC Guidance for Preventing Birth Defects
Not all birth defects can be prevented. But a woman can increase her own chances of having a healthy baby by managing health conditions and adopting healthy behaviors before becoming pregnant. This is important because many birth defects happen very early during pregnancy, sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant.
CDC Folic Acid Website
Folic acid is a B vitamin. If a woman has enough folic acid in her body before and during pregnancy, it can help prevent major birth defects of the baby's brain and spine. Women need 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
CDC Preconception Health and Health Care
Preconception health and health care focuses on taking steps now to protect the health of a baby in the future. However, preconception health is important for all women and men, whether or not they plan to have a baby one day.
CDC FREE Materials and Multimedia
Download fact sheets, brochures, and posters in English and Spanish. Some print materials may be ordered for free. Also available are infographics, podcasts, videos, and buttons you can add to websites, blogs or social networking sites. Topics include birth defects, folic acid, alcohol use in pregnancy, diabetes and pregnancy, and preventing infections during pregnancy.
Folic Acid Educational DVD in Seven Languages
The Minnesota Department of Health partnered with the Emergency & Community Health Outreach (ECHO) program, the Minnesota Chapter of the March of Dimes, and the Minnesota Folic Acid Council to create a DVD that includes seven 20-minute folic acid educational video productions. English, Hmong, Khmer/Cambodian, Lao, Vietnamese, Somali and Spanish are the seven languages available.
National Birth Defects Prevention Network Awareness Campaign
Free educational materials from the National Birth Defects Prevention Network to promote birth defects awareness and prevention.