Tue. Apr 16th, 2024

World Birth Defects Day is observed every year on March 3 to raise awareness around types and causes of birth defects, their impact on individuals and families and prevention strategies. The day provides the platform for collaboration among healthcare professionals, researchers, policymakers, and communities to address the challenges associated with birth defects. (Also read | Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day 2024: Date, significance, types of congenital heart defects)

World Birth Defects Day 2024: Birth defects can affect any part of the body and can be developed at any stage of pregnancy(Freepik)

Birth defects can affect any part of the body and can be developed at any stage of pregnancy, but the first three months are believed to be crucial. They can affect a body function or the appearance of it and may or may not affect longevity of a person.

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A birth defect can be found during the pregnancy till after birth, mostly within the first year. While the causes of many birth defects remain unknown, some may be caused by alcohol consumption, smoking, certain medical conditions, medications or having certain infections during the pregnancy.

Every year, 3-6% of infants worldwide are born with a serious birth defect while In India, more than 1.7 million children are born with birth defects annually. The birth defects include physical malformations such as cleft lip or palate, and chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome, defects like congenital heart disease or congenital deafness.

History of World Birth Defects Day

World Birth Defects Day, established in 2015, originated from a holistic initiative by WHO-SEARO and CDC-USA following the 2010 World Health Assembly Resolution. Since its start, global and national organisations come together every year on March 3 to raise awareness and emphasise the importance of surveillance, prevention, and treatment of birth defects. This annual day reaffirms WHO-SEARO’s commitment to support Member States in tackling the societal impact of common birth defects through education and action.

Prevention of birth defects

While it’s difficult to know the cause of some birth defects, many can be prevented with vaccination, adequate intake of folic acid, iodine, following healthy lifestyle measures and avoiding smoking and alcohol.

According to CDC, here are tips that can help avoid birth defects.

  • Get 400 mcg of folic acid every day, preferably starting them a month before getting pregnant.
  • Do not drink alcohol or smoke.
  • Be proactive in identifying and treating fever when ill or after getting a vaccine. Avoid hot tubs, saunas, or other environments that might cause overheating.
  • Know how to prevent infections during pregnancy.
  • Always ask your doctor about the medications you are taking or thinking about taking.

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