Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Friday, January 06, 2006

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month

Birth Defects Prevention Month, which takes place annually in January, was established to increase awareness about birth defects, abnormalities that are present at birth and can lead to physical or mental disabilities. In accordance with this event, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA's) National Mental Health Information Center's Web site is featuring resources for community programs and activities associated with this event. You can access these resources and details about the event at http://www.mentalhealth.samhsa.gov/highlights/January2006/birthdefects/

As a side note, one of the most preventable birth defects are those neural tube disorders such as spina bifida. 400 mcg of folic acid, the daily requirement, can help prevent this crippling condition in almost 70% of cases. All women of child-bearing age, regardless of whether they are planning a pregnancy or not, should be sure to get this through diet (there are foods rich in folic acid (orange juice and green vegetables), but also many cereals and other grains are fortified with it, and most multivitamins contain this as well). Folic acid also may help lower your chances of getting heart disease and some types of cancers. It may help protect you from having a stroke, as well. Neural tube defects happen very early in pregnancy, often before the woman is even aware that she is pregnant. There are some people who don't process folic acid well, and some families/ethnic groups that spina bifida runs in (Hispanics and those of European descent--especially Irish and Scottish--are most at risk), so check with your doctor to see if you may need further supplement.

Spina bifida is one of the disorders treated at the hospital I work in, but I also have an aunt who has spina bifida occulta, the form that has minimal impairment and is not readily seen except via x-ray. So if I plan a pregnancy (isn't happening anytime soon, trust me), it's important for me to get the folate I need, too. Plus, it's just good sense as there are other health benefits beyond pregnancy. :)

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