The prevention of birth defects is another goal of the Arkansas Center. Providing information of the latest findings and initiatives plays an important role in preventing and reducing birth defects in Arkansas and the U.S.
National Birth Defects Prevention Network
The National Birth Defects Prevention Network’s Education and Outreach Committee is pleased to provide educational materials to raise awareness for Birth Defects Prevention Month, January 2021, available at https://www.nbdpn.org/bdpm.php.
NBDPN’s goal is to continue to increase awareness that women can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by reducing their risk of getting an infection during pregnancy. The 2018 theme is “Prevent to Protect: Prevent Infections for Baby’s Protection”. These resources can be shared with colleagues, policy makers, families, and others during Birth Defects Prevention Month and throughout the year.
January is Birth Defects Prevention Month
January 2018 was officially declared Birth Defects Awareness Month in Arkansas. That year, a group from the Arkansas Center met with the governor and participated in a photo opportunity at the Capitol Building. We shared with him the work we are doing to examine the prevalence of birth defects in the state and to find ways to prevent birth defects in children nationwide. We also informed him about the efforts of the ARHMS and our ongoing research, specifically, the CDC-funded BD-STEPS grant.
Neural tube defects (NTDs) are serious birth defects of the brain and spine including spina bifida, the leading cause of childhood paralysis. In the U.S., NTDs affect an estimated 4,000 pregnancies each year and occur when the neural tube doesn’t close correctly.
Research has shown that taking folic acid daily “at least one month” before the time of conception and continue taking it throughout the first three months of pregnancy may decrease a woman’s chance of having a neural tube defect-affected pregnancy. The U.S. Public Health Service and the National Council on Folic Acid recommend that all women of childbearing age (15-44 years old) consume 400 micrograms (400 mcg or 0.4 mg) of folic acid each day by eating foods rich in folate and taking a multivitamin or folic acid pill.
Folic acid supplements are proven to reduce the risks of birth defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly if taken well before conception. Since 1998, the FDA has required flour and cereal makers to put about 100 micrograms a day in our food. The Arkansas Center has joined in this initiative to help spread awareness and information about the benefits of folic acid. More information can be found at the website: http://vitaminforlife.org/.