January is National Birth Defects
Pictured above left to right: Mark Roth, Mother tot Baby NY, Dr. Chris Ryan, Medical Director of Broome County Health Department, Sharon Chesna, Executive Director Mothers & Babies, and Board President of Mothers & Babies Rich Keehle.
Mothers & Babies is teaming up with MotherToBaby NY and the Broome County Health Department to bring attention to January being National Birth Defects Prevention Month! Promoting awareness is consistent with Mothers & Babies’s Mission.
Each January the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strives to raise awareness of actions women and their partners can take to help have a healthy baby. It is also a time to recognize people living with birth defects. Thanks to ongoing medical advances, children born with birth defects are living longer, but these children and their families still need help. They often need specialized treatment, continued care, and strong social support to improve their overall quality of life.
Birth defects are common, costly, and critical conditions that affect 1 in 33 babies every year and cause 1 in 5 infant deaths
In the United States, birth defects have accounted for over 139,000 hospital stays during a single year, resulting in $2.6 billion in hospital costs alone. Costs were particularly high for hospitalizations related to congenital heart defects, which cost more than $6 billion in 2013. Families and the government share the burden of these costs. Additional costs due to lost wages or occupational limitations can affect families as well.
The cause of most birth defects is unknown. Use of cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs, taking of some medicines; and exposure to chemicals and infectious diseases during pregnancy have been linked to birth defects. Researchers are studying the role of these factors, as well as genetics, as causes of birth defects. A birth defect can affect how the body looks, how it works, or both and. Many birth defects are not found immediately at birth. Some birth defects like cleft lip or spina bifida are easy to see. Others, like heart defects, are not.
(Left) Mark Roth, Teratogen Information Specialist from Mother to Baby NY was on hand to provide information about Teratogen Risk & Resources. (Right) Dr. Chris Ryan, Medical Director of Broome County Health Department discussed infection prevention from a public health prospective.
Teratogens are drugs, chemicals, or even infections that can cause abnormal fetal development. There are billions of potential teratogens, but only a few agents are proven to have teratogenic effects. These effects can result in a baby being born with a birth defect. Approximately 4 to 5 percent of birth defects are caused by exposure to a teratogen.
The majority of agents that people come into contact with aren’t proven teratogens. Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about being exposed to a particular medication, chemical, or infection during pregnancy.
Researchers believe a teratogen can affect a developing fetus about 10 to14 days after conception.
The best way to reduce the risk of exposure to teratogens during pregnancy is to avoid taking medications when possible and to avoid exposure to the following:
Avoid prolonged stays in whirlpools, steam rooms, or saunas.
Talk to your doctor before you start taking any over-the-counter supplements during pregnancy. Products that claim to be natural may not necessarily be safe to use during pregnancy.
If your doctor orders a test with possible radiation exposure during your pregnancy, they must strongly believe that the risk of exposure is less than the risk of an untreated or undiagnosed condition. In most cases, the lower abdomen can be shielded with a protective apron to prevent exposure.