CONTACT: DAVE PEDERSEN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8032; fax (319) 335-8034
Release: Jan. 21, 2000
January is Birth Defects Prevention Month
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- January has been designated as Birth Defects Prevention
Month to highlight the public health importance of birth defects.
The Iowa Birth Defects Registry, located in the University of Iowa College
of Public Health, and the Iowa Department of Public Health want to ensure
that women know what they can do to increase their chances of having a healthy
Annually, 1,600 babies are born in Iowa, and 150,000 nationwide, with birth
defects. Birth defects are the leading cause of infant mortality.
"It is important that we increase our understanding of the causes of
birth defects and what we can do to prevent birth defects," said Paul
Romitti, Ph.D., director of the Iowa Birth Defects Registry.
The registry is a statewide reporting system that works with all Iowa hospitals
and specialty clinics to collect information about birth defects diagnosed
among state residents. This information is used to assess trends in their
occurrence and mortality within the state and to study potential causes of
Some birth defects are preventable. Prenatal health promotion and health
care can help. The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that all women of
childbearing age (15 to 44 years old) consume 400 micrograms of folic acid
each day. Folic acid, a B-vitamin, taken before pregnancy and in the early
weeks of pregnancy, can reduce a woman's risk of having a pregnancy affected
by a neural tube defect. In the United States, neural tube defects affect
an estimated 4,000 pregnancies each year. The most common of these defects
is spina bifida, the leading cause of childhood paralysis.
Later this month, Gov. Tom Vilsack will sign a proclamation naming January
as Birth Defects Prevention Month in Iowa.
"We are pleased that Iowa is recognizing January as Birth Defects Prevention
Month. However, we need to educate women of childbearing age about ways to
prevent birth defects every month," said Steve Gleason, director of the
Iowa Department of Public Health.