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Birth Defects Prevention Month January 2016

Making Healthy Choices to Prevent Birth Defects

January 2016 is Birth Defects Prevention Month. The California Birth Defects Monitoring Program (CBDMP) and the Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Division would like to take this opportunity to increase awareness of birth defects, the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States.  This year’s goal is to promote healthy choices to prevent birth defects.

There are many different kinds of birth defects including congenital heart defects, cleft lip or palate, defects of the brain and spine, and a variety of genetic syndromes such as Down syndrome. Some have only a minor and brief effect on a baby’s health and some have life-threatening and/or life-long effects. 

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 400mcg of folic acid daily from the beginning of menstruation through menopause.
  • Staple foods in Hispanic communities, such as tortillas and other products made from corn masa flour, may not be fortified with folic acid. Check nutrition labels (English, SpanishOpens in new window) to ensure you get the 400 micrograms of folic acid you need every day.
  • Eat a healthy diet and aim for a healthy weight.
  • Keep diabetes under control.
  • Get a medical checkup before pregnancy and address specific health issues including weight control, control of diabetes, and any medications taken.
  • 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.
  • Plan carefully.  Use contraception if taking medications that increase the risk for birth defects.
  • Know your family medical history and potential genetic risks.

Join the effort to increase awareness of birth defects and the impact they have on all of us. Below are a collection of materials that you may view and share with others.

Social Media

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) will be tweeting regularly throughout the month of January highlighting the importance of folic acid and increasing birth defects awareness.


Make a PACT for Prevention: Plan ahead, Avoid harmful substances, Choose a healthy lifestyle and Talk to your healthcare provider. Making a PACT to get healthy before and during pregnancy can help you have a healthy baby.




(1) Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/facts.html

(2) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: http://www.ahrq.gov/

Last modified on: 1/19/2016 8:01 AM