NH DHHS - January Is National Birth Defects Prevention Month

Concord, NH – During the month of January, the New Hampshire Department of

Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the New Hampshire Birth Conditions

Program (NHBCP) are joining the National Birth Defects Prevention Network

(NBDPN) to increase awareness of birth defects, the leading cause of infant

mortality in the United States and in New Hampshire. More than 120,000

babies are born with a birth defect in the United States, which is

approximately 1 every 4½ minutes, each year and about 300 of those cases

occur in New Hampshire. However, the risk for many types of birth defects

can be reduced through healthy lifestyle choices and medical interventions

before and during pregnancy.

“Most people are unaware of how common, costly, and critical birth defects

are in the United States,” said Dr. José Montero, Public Health Director at

DHHS, “or that there are simple steps that can be taken to reduce the risk

of birth defects. Diet, life-style choices, factors in the environment,

maternal health conditions, and medications taken before and during

pregnancy can all play a role in preventing or increasing the risk of birth


Studies have demonstrated several important steps women can take to help

prevent birth defects. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant are

advised to:

Take 400 mcg of folic acid daily from the beginning of menstruation

through menopause.

Eat a healthy diet and aim for a healthy weight, including enriched

grains and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Keep diabetes under control.

Get a medical checkup before becoming pregnant.

Stop smoking and avoid second-hand smoke.

Stop drinking alcohol prior to pregnancy or as soon into pregnancy

as possible.

Do not take illegal drugs.

Use contraception if taking medications that increase the risk for

birth defects.

Know your family medical history and potential genetic risks.

This January, the NHBCP and DHHS are working to promote folic acid

awareness and its role in the prevention of birth defects. The New

Hampshire Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program will offer

raffles where women can win one of 12 baskets with a one-year supply of

multivitamins, foods rich in folic acid, cooking supplies, and a grocery

store gift card to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables. This promotion is

free to enter for anyone coming to a participating WIC clinic during the

month of January.

To learn more about birth conditions in New Hampshire, please contact the

NHBCP at www.NHBCP.org  or visit www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/nhp/wic/index.htm  to

enroll in the WIC Program.