Children With Special Health Care NeedsPhone:(801)584-8284 TollFree:(800)829-8200

Pictures of children with birth defects, before and after.

National Birth Defect Prevention Month

Birth Defects are common, costly, and critical. Boy in wheelchair

The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) seeks to prevent birth defects and secondary disabilities by monitoring occurrence, conducting research, providing education and outreach.

Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States, are a leading cause of infant mortality, and costs $2.6 billion per year in hospital costs.

Babies who survive and live with birth defects are at increased risk for developing many lifelong physical, cognitive, and social challenges. Medical care and support services only scrape the surface of the financial and emotional impact of living with serious birth defects. Birth defects come in all shapes and sizes, and there are literally hundreds of types of birth defects. Common examples include Down syndrome, cleft lip and palate, and heart defects.

We know that not all birth defects can be prevented. But, we also know that women can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by managing health conditions and adopting healthy behaviors before and during pregnancy. Some infections before and during pregnancy can hurt both you and your baby. They can cause birth defects and lifelong disabilities, such as hearing loss or learning problems.

You can reduce your risk of getting an infection during pregnancy to help protect your baby by following these recommendations:

Talk to your healthcare provider

  • Talk to your healthcare provider about what you can do to prevent infections such as Zika virus.
  • Make sure that you are up-to-date with vaccinations (shots) before getting pregnant.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about vaccinations that you should receive during pregnancy.

Properly prepare food

  • Wash your hands before and after preparing food.
  • Do not eat raw or runny eggs or raw sprouts.
  • Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and cheese, and other foods made from them.

Maintain good hygiene

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially:
    • Before preparing or eating foods,
    • After handling raw meat, raw eggs, or unwashed vegetables,
    • After being around or touching pets and other animals,
    • After changing diapers or wiping runny noses.
    • Do not put a young child’s food, utensils, drinking cups, or pacifiers in your mouth.

Protect yourself from animals and insects known to carry diseases such as Zika virus

  • Stay away from wild or pet rodents, live poultry, lizards and turtles, and do not clean cat litter boxes while pregnant.
  • When mosquitoes and ticks are active, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outside.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered insect repellents with one of the following ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus (Paramenthane-3,8-diol).

Prevent to Protect

Healthy women have healthier babies! Not all birth defects can be prevented, but there are some keys to reducing the risk. Women of child bearing age can reduce their risk by:

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