Birth defects are the leading cause of infant mortality in the United
States. In fact, every 4 and 1/2 minutes, a baby is born with a birth
defect. The risk for many types of birth defects can be reduced though
healthy lifestyle choices and medical interventions before and during
There are many different kinds of birth defects including congenital
heart defects, cleft lip or palate, defects of the brain or spine, and a
variety of genetic syndromes such as Down syndrome. Some have only a minor
or brief effect on a baby's health and some have life-threatening and/or
More than 120,000 babies born with a birth defect (approximately 1 in 33
live births) are reported each year in the United States.
"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 Heather Aldred, RN Health
Department WIC/Case Management nurse. "The health of both parents prior to
pregnancy can affect the risk of having a child with a birth defect. Diet,
life-style choices, factors in the environment, health conditions and
medications before and during pregnancy all can play a role in preventing or
increasing the risk of birth defects."
Aldred adds, "Small steps like visiting a health care provider before
pregnancy and taking a multivitamin everyday can make a big difference.
Also, women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant can take control of
their health to improve their chance of a healthy pregnancy. Good habits
include regular physical activity, about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, or
more. Healthy eating means having a balanced diet, low in fats, with at
least 5 or more servings a day of fruits and vegetables. A woman should
talk to her healthcare provider about making healthy changes for a
For more information on the Health Department WIC and Case Management
services call the Health Department at (309) 852-5272 (Henry) or (309)
852-3115 (Stark) or visit our website at www.henrystarkhealth.com or find us
on Facebook at Henry and Stark County Health Departments.