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The CDC estimates that birth defects occur in about 1 in every 33 infants born in the United States each year. While not all birth defects can be prevented, participants can take steps to reduce their risk of having a baby born with a birth defect. January is National Birth Defects Awareness Month and presents an opportunity for WIC staff to raise awareness of this topic.
Among the ways that WIC plays a role in helping to spread the word is by educating participants and their families about the dangers of substance use and the importance of committing to healthy choices as a key strategy for preventing birth defects.
WIC staff provide nutrition education, in addition to tailoring food packages, that can help participants meet their recommended daily intake of folic acid, an important nutrient that helps reduce the risk of neural tube defects. (Be sure to check out WIC Meals of the Month: Focus on Folate for recipes to help participants make the most of their WIC foods!)
Educational and Other Resources for Sharing
- A healthy behaviors to help prevent birth defects checklist and information page, with handouts and infographics
- Podcasts and videos that cover topics such as maternal risk factors for having a baby with a heart defect, consulting with a healthcare provider about medications during pregnancy, and more
- A fact sheet collection page with handouts, infographics and multimedia buttons
- Information about specific birth defects and how they are diagnosed
Explore the WIC Works Resource System to find additional resources related to folic acid and developmental disabilities, as well as Zika and COVID-19, two infectious diseases with the potential to impact pregnancy and breastfeeding.
The Developmental Milestone Checklist program for WIC, developed through a collaboration with WIC State programs and CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” program, helps WIC providers engage parents in monitoring their children’s development from age 2 months through 5 years, and support them with timely referrals when developmental concerns are identified.
CDC offers newsletters and social media posts to help increase the awareness of birth defects.
The National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN) offers 5 Prevention Tips for Healthy Communities and Healthy Babies. These tips include actions that individuals and community organizers can take before and during pregnancy to help prevent birth defects. The NBDPN provides a Tips Resource Map showing related resources by state and area. Other resources that can be found on the National Birth Defects Prevention Month page include:
- Videos (including one in Spanish)
- Themed resources related to each of the 5 Tips for Preventing Birth Defects
- A fact sheet for dads
- Graphics and social media ideas (including sample posts)
- A proclamation that can be tailored to your state
- A sample news release
- Materials for local public health departments
Family Support and Advocacy
- At HealthyChildren.org, parents can find general information related to child health as well as more specific guidance on How Chronic Illness or Disability Affects a Family.
- Families can complete the online Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait family history tool provided on the CDC’s Family Health History and share with their physician.