World Birth Defects Day is observed every year on March 3 to raise awareness of this serious global problem and advocate for more surveillance, prevention, care and research to help babies and children.
An estimated 8 million babies around the world are born with a serious birth each year. Birth defects are a leading cause of death in the first year of life, and babies who survive may have physical or intellectual disabilities, taking a costly toll on their families, communities and nations.
Birth defects, also named congenital anomalies, are structural or functional anomalies due to prenatally determined developmental anomalies that can be identified prenatally, at birth, or sometimes may only be detected later in infancy.
Examples of birth defects
- Structural: Heart Defects, Spina Bifida, Hypospadias, Limb Deficiency, Club Foot, Down Syndrome
- Functional: Metabolic Diseases, Hearing Loss, Thalassemia, Cystic Fibrosis, Autism Spectrum Disorders
some steps women can take to improve the chances of a healthy pregnancy and reduce the risk of birth defects:
- Start taking a daily multivitamin containing 400 mcg of folic acid, a B vitamin, even if you’re not trying to get pregnant. Folic acid every day, beginning before pregnancy and continuing through your pregnancy, is proven to help prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine. It’s also a good idea to eat foods that contain folate, the natural form of folic acid, including lentils, green leafy vegetables, black beans, and orange juice [or other high folate foods popular in your area]. [Name of your organization] also recommends folic-acid enriched cereals, breads, and pasta; and foods made from folic-acid enriched corn masa flour, such as cornbread, corn tortillas, tacos, and tamales.
- Get as healthy as possible before pregnancy. See your health care provider for a checkup to learn about any conditions that can be treated before you get pregnant.
- Be up-to-date with your vaccinations (shots). Talk to your healthcare provider about vaccinations you should receive before or during pregnancy, including rubella and influenza (flu).
- Learn how to avoid Zika virus, cytomegalovirus (CMV), and sexually transmitted infections that can harm you and a developing baby.
- Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before preparing or eating foods; after being around or touching pets and other animals. If you’re around young children, don’t share food, glasses or utensils and do not put a child’s cup or pacifier in your mouth.