The Tennessee Department of Health is recognizing National Birth Defects Awareness Month in January 2023 to encourage healthy choices and habits for prospective parents to help lower their risk of having babies born with birth defects.
Birth defects are structural changes that can affect almost any part of the body. In Tennessee, more than 3,000 babies are born with birth defects every year. Birth defects cause one in five infant deaths in the state and cause lifelong physical and intellectual challenges for others.
“There are resources to help people to be as healthy as possible, whether they are preparing for pregnancy, caring for a child with birth defects, or are individuals living with birth defects” said Dr. Tobi Amosun, Assistant Commissioner for the Department of Health and Director of Family Health and Wellness. “The Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) program is an important resource for nutrition and the Community Health Access and Navigation in Tennessee (CHANT) program is available in every county to assist with other needs for children, particularly those with special needs. We are working to make sure all Tennesseans receive the services and treatments they need, in the ways they need them. Supporting family and child health creates a better Tennessee.”
Adopting healthy behaviors even before becoming pregnant can increase the chances of having the best outcomes. These healthy behaviors include:
• Maintaining a healthy diet;
• Engaging in daily exercise;
• Taking 400mcg of folic acid daily;
• Starting prenatal care early;
• Staying current on vaccines;
• Managing chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension;
• Spacing healthy timeframes between pregnancies; and,
• Avoiding alcohol, nicotine products, and the misuse of substances.
Women of childbearing age are encouraged to ask their healthcare providers about ways to have the healthiest pregnancy possible. This is particularly important for women taking medication regularly.