Birth Defects Prevention

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, and the theme for 2018 is “Prevent to Protect: Prevent Infections for Baby’s Protection.”

Click here to read the health department’s National Birth Defects Prevention Month 2018 press release.

Not all birth defects can be prevented, but some can – particularly those that are caused by infections women might get before or during pregnancy.

All women who might become pregnant  – including teens – can lower their risk of having babies with birth defects by following some basic health guidelines throughout their reproductive years:

1. Stay vaccinated.

  • Get the flu shot each year, as well as the whooping cough vaccine.
  • Be up-to-date on all of your vaccines before becoming pregnant.

2. Prevent insect bites.

  • Use insect repellent. (According to the EPA, the most effective insect repellents are those that contain picaridin, IR3535, DEET, or lemon-eucalyptus oil, AKA para-menthane-3,8-diol.)
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outside.
  • Consider avoiding travel to areas where the Zika virus is present.

3. Practice good hygiene.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Avoid putting a young child’s cup or pacifier in your mouth.

4. Get enough folic acid.

  • All women who are capable of bearing children should consume 400 micrgrams (400 mcg or 0.4
  • mg) of folic acid daily. This can prevent 50 to 70 percent of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly.

5. Talk to your healthcare provider.

  • Ask about how you can prevent sexually transmitted infections.
  • Discuss prevention of Zika virus


Additional resources:

  • Click here for the National Birth Defects Prevention Network website.
  • Click here for the Kentucky Birth Surveillance Registry.
  • Click here to read the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for preventing birth defects.