Life is hard for a new mother, especially if the child is diagnosed with birth defects such as spina bifida, chromosomal abnormalities, cleft palate or heart defects. January is National Birth Defect Awareness Month and the March of Dimes is aimed at research and how to remedy these potentially tragic defects.
The Bell County “March for Babies” is held annually in the fall and helps to raise money for the March of Dimes.
“The different families I’ve come into contact with during my time with March of Dimes, I’ve found that pregnancy is supposed to be such an exciting time. It’s become kind of a personal cause for me that people are having to visit their babies in the hospital due to premature birth and birth defects instead of taking them home a few days after they’re born as happy, healthy babies,” said Ashley Lindquist, March of Dimes regional communications manager. “I’m fighting for those families to provide things so that all families can experience a happy outcome.”
The March of Dimes, originally founded by President Franklin Roosevelt, assisted in funding research which led to the polio vaccine, effectively ending the epidemic in the US. The organization then changed its focus to preventing birth defects and premature births.
Now, the March of Dimes has held several campaigns to raise awareness of effective measures for healthy births — using folic acid supplements during pregnancy and reducing the amount of elective pre-term deliveries, to name a few.
According to the Center for Disease Control, a baby with birth defects is born in the US every 4 and a half minutes and accounts for 20 percent of mortality in the first year of life.
The CDC has suggestions to help reduce the amount of major birth defects in the US.
- Be fit. Eat a healthy diet and work towards a healthy weight before pregnancy.
- Be healthy. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs. Be sure to consume at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before and during early pregnancy. Work to get health conditions, like diabetes, in control before becoming pregnant.
- Be wise. Visit a health care professional regularly. Consult with your healthcare provider about any medications, including prescription and over-the counter medications and dietary or herbal supplements, before taking them.
Reach Kelsey Gerhardt at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardtmbdn.