This year, join with Buena Vista County Public Health & Home Care and celebrate the successes in the battle against birth defects during Iowa Public Health Week, April 5-11.
Each year, about 150,000 babies are born with a birth defect in this country. Despite the amazing advances of the Human Genome Project, and its promising prospects for future genetics research, birth defects are still the leading cause of infant mortality.
Overall, serious birth defects affect approximately 1,700 children born in Iowa each year. The most common defects are heart defects affecting about 13 percent of children born in our state annually.
Although most congenital heart defects have no known cause, maternal factors and exposures - specifically diabetes, obesity and maternal rubella early in pregnancy - may cause a heart defect in the fetus.
Iowa's public health community is working to prevent as many birth defects as possible, and women can take steps to decrease their chance of having a baby with a birth defect.
Every day, all women of childbearing age should take a multi-vitamin with 400 micrograms (400 mcg or 0.4 mg) of folic acid.
Folic acid consumption reduces the risk of having a baby with spina bifida, and possibly other birth defects, including cleft lip or palate and heart defects. All women should be appropriately immunized, especially women born outside the US who have not received rubella immunizations.
Exposure in the first trimester of pregnancy results in congenital rubella syndrome that can cause serious heart, hearing and vision defects. Women should not smoke, drink alcohol or use recreational drugs during pregnancy.
Iowa's public health community is working to decrease high-risk behaviors and late (or no) prenatal care. However, more work needs to be done to support these important prevention messages, as well as treatment and care options.
Early intervention services for children and families affected by birth defects is also needed.