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The prevention of birth defects is another goal of the Arkansas Center. Providing information of the latest findings plays an important role in preventing and reducing birth defects in Arkansas and the U.S.

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month.

National Birth Defects Prevention Network:

The National Birth Defects Prevention Network's Education and Outreach Committee is pleased to present the 2014 Birth Defects Prevention Month Packet, available at (entire packet can be downloaded at

Building on the theme from last year, “Every 4 ½ minutes a baby is born with a birth defect,” NBDPN’s goal for 2014 is to continue to increase awareness that birth defects are “Common, Costly and Critical” and to offer actionable steps that can be taken by professionals, community groups, and the public to prevent birth defects.  Some of the new resources include sample letters to health care providers, a factsheet for policy makers, resources for grandparents of children with birth defects, and tailored materials for local health department.  These resources can be shared with colleagues, policy makers, families, and others during Birth Defects Prevention Month and throughout the year. 

MotherToBaby Blog:

To kick the year off, the MotherToBaby blog this month focuses on folic acid and the critical role it plays in fetal development. The blog, which is told through the moving story of a couple whose lives are forever altered when their child is born with spina bifida, is meant to bring about awareness during January’s National Birth Defects Awareness Month. It is written by Patricia Olney, MS, a MotherToBaby teratogen information specialist and genetic counselor.

The link can be found here:

*Announcing MotherToBaby, a service of the
Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) Toll-FREE (866) 626-6847


February 7-14 is National Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week.

Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, affecting about 40,000 babies each year in the United States. It is estimated that there are nearly 1 million U.S. adults living with a congenital heart defect.

In honor of National Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has completed a number of activities to raise awareness about these defects:

1.      A web feature has been posted on the CDC website this week.  It highlights the story of person living with a congenital heart defect as well as CDC tracking and research efforts to understand the prevalence and causes of congenital heart defects.   It is live and available from the CDC homepage or using this link: Other recent features on congenital heart defects can be accessed using these links:  and

2.      Congenital heart defects are featured in an HHS HealthBeat podcast, called “The little heart that could.” It is currently near the top of the list on the HHS HealthBeat website at Alternatively, one can go directly to the mp3 for the presentation at

3.      Messages about congenital heart defects were included in “Did You Know?” and “Have You Heard?” emails from CDC’s Office of State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Health Professionals (OSTLTS).  The “Did You Know?” email about congenital heart defects was disseminated to tribal leaders and health officials, state health officials, local health departments, HHS regional directors, ASTHO senior deputies, and OSTLTS grantees on February 3rd.  The “Have You Heard?” email about congenital heart defects will be disseminated on February 8th.  To sign up for these emails, click here:

For information about congenital heart defects, please visit  A new factsheet on the “5 Things You Should Know About Heart Defects” is available at

May 8-14 is Alcohol- and Other Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These conditions can affect each person in different ways, and can range from mild to severe. They can include physical problems and problems with behavior and learning. FASDs are 100% preventable.

In order to continue raising awareness about FASDs, the CDC has posted a feature on the CDC home page. It is also available in Spanish at CDC en Español. You will also find it in Facebook and Twitter.

Folic Acid

Neural tube defects (NTDs) are serious birth defects of the brain and spine including spina bifida, the leading cause of childhood paralysis. In the U.S., NTDs affect an estimated 4,000 pregnancies each year and occur when the neural tube doesn't close correctly. The neural tube is formed and closed before the fourth week of a woman's pregnancy.

Research has shown that taking folic acid daily "at least one month" before the time of conception and continue taking it throughout the first three months of pregnancy may decrease a woman’s chance of having a neural tube defect-affected pregnancy.*

The U.S. Public Health Service and the National Council on Folic Acid recommends that all women of childbearing age (15-44 years old) consume 400 micrograms (400 mcg or 0.4 mg) of folic acid each day by eating foods rich in folate and taking a multivitamin or folic acid pill. 

Foods rich in folate include:

  • leafy green vegetables, orange juice, and beans
  • folic acid fortified breakfast cereals and enriched grains and pastas

In an article published January 27, 2010 by Fast Recipes Online, Bettye Baxter, Research Nursing Supervisor at the Arkansas Center, shared the recipe for prenatal nutrition by discussing the importance of folic acid as a preventive measure against neural tube defects in newborns.

In January, 1999, the National Council on Folic Acid began a national educational campaign to inform all American women of childbearing age about the importance of taking folic acid to prevent neural tube defects. For information about the National Folic Acid Now Campaign, please visit the following Web sites:

* Burke B, Lyon-Daniel K, Latimer A., Merseau P, Moran K., Mulinare J, Prue C, Steen J, Watkins M. Preventing neural tube defects: A prevention model and resource guide. 1999. CDC. pp. 5-10.





Arkansas Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention
13 Children's Way, Mail Slot 512-40
Little Rock, Arkansas 72204
1-877-662-4567 toll free