The Beat Goes On

December 13, 2013

Orginally published Jan. 03, 2012

All expectant parents hope that their babies will be healthy, but it can be hard not to worry about potential complications. What if the baby has a serious health problem? Is there anything I can do to prevent problems?

Birth defects affect approximately one in 33 newborns and are the leading cause of death in children less than one year of age—causing one in every five deaths. A birth defect is an abnormality of structure, function or metabolism present at birth that results in physical or mental disability or is fatal, and for many babies born with a birth defect there is no family history of the condition.

The most common type of birth defects is congenital heart defects, which are the focus of January’s National Birth Defects Prevention Month theme, “And the Beat Goes On… Looking to the Future for Healthy Hearts.”
The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) established the Georgia Birth Defects Reporting and Information System (GBDRIS) to provide information on the rates and patterns of birth defects across Georgia. DPH works with the Metropolitan Congenital Defects Program (MACDP), which monitors the prevalence of birth defects in 5 central counties in the metropolitan Atlanta area

MACDP has monitored over 1.1 million births and has information on over 41,000 children born with birth defects. MACDP data are used to observe unusual patterns and to detect changes in the occurrence of birth defects. These data provide the basis for research studies into the cause of birth defects and also serve to evaluate the impact of prevention programs. MACDP partners with the GBDRIS which provides referrals to programs and health services for at-risk children.

Not all birth defects can be prevented. But a woman can increase her own chance of having a healthy baby. In order to help prevent birth defects, women should take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily; abstain from alcohol, smoking and street drugs; talk to a health care provider before taking any medications; talk to their doctors about vaccinations; keep chronic diseases like diabetes under control; and reach and maintain a healthy weight.

Visit for more information on GBDRIS.

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