March of Dimes seeks to raise awareness during National Birth Defects Prevention Month
Esteban Meneses, Public Relations Coordinator, March of Dimes, 321-274-8683, firstname.lastname@example.org
Maitland, Florida, January 10, 2014
March of Dimes, a founding member of the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN), is supporting the organization this month to increase awareness of birth defects, a leading cause of infant mortality in the United States. Every 4 ½ minutes a baby is born with a birth defect in the country.
In honor of January as National Birth Defects Prevention Month, the March of Dimes is focusing on raising awareness about the frequency with which birth defects occur and the steps that can be taken to prevent them. The risk for many types of birth defects can be reduced through healthy lifestyle choices and medical care before and during pregnancy.
There are many different kinds of birth defects, including congenital heart defects, cleft lip or palate, defects of the brain and spine, bones, muscles and internal organs, and a variety of genetic syndromes such as Down syndrome. Some have only a minor and brief effect on a baby’s health, while others have life-long effects, which can often be lessened by early detection and treatment.
More than 120,000 babies are born with a birth defect (approximately 1 in every 33 live births) each year in the United States, including 6,500 in Florida, according to the March of Dimes. Public awareness, expert medical care, accurate and early diagnosis, and social support systems are all essential for optimal prevention and treatment of these all-too-common and often deadly conditions.
“Most people are unaware of how common, costly and critical birth defects are in the United States, or that there are simple steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of birth defects,” says Dr. Karen Harris, Chair of the Program Services Committee for the Florida Chapter of the March of Dimes.
“Small steps like visiting a healthcare provider before pregnancy and taking a multivitamin every day can go a long way.”
Studies have demonstrated several important steps women can take to help prevent birth defects. Women of childbearing age are advised to:
• Consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily
• Reach and maintain a healthy weight
• Talk to a health care provider about taking proper medications
• Avoid alcohol, smoking, and illicit drugs
• See a health care provider regularly
• Avoid toxic substances at work or at home
• Ensure protection against domestic violence
March of Dimes Florida Chapter works with volunteers and the state’s elected officials to institute changes in newborn medical screening practices that will benefit all babies born in Florida and help combat birth defects. March of Dimes volunteers have always been strong newborn screening advocates; in recent years, they have successfully worked with the legislature to add Severe Combined Immunodeficiency and Critical Congenital Heart Disease to Florida’s newborn screening panel. For the past two years they have also been successful in getting the Florida Birth Defects Registry – a population-based surveillance system that has identified birth defects in babies born in Florida since 1999 – fully funded.
For more than 75 years, moms and babies have benefited from March of Dimes research, education, vaccines, and breakthroughs. Find out how you can help raise funds to prevent premature birth and birth defects by walking in March for Babies at marchforbabies.org. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.