Health Watch: Fairbanks Neonatal Intensive Care Clinical Manager discusses birth defect prevention

Published: Jan. 20, 2021 at 4:53 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -National Birth Defect Prevention month is an effort by prenatal health experts from the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Birth Defects Prevention Network to increase public awareness of birth defects and preemptive methods to prevent them.

Ann Branville-Davis, Clinical Manager of the Foundation Health Partners Neonatal Intensive Care unit visited with us about the common occurrence of birth defects in the U.S. “About every four and a half minutes a baby is born with a birth defect in the United States, and it does not have to be that common. It’s very expensive to have babies born with a birth defect. Birth defects can be structural and they can be very simple, or it could be very complex and the baby would need several surgeries.”

According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Division of Public Health’s Alaska Birth Defects Registry, as of 2019 the most common birth defects in Alaska was atrial septal defect, a prenatal condition producing a hole in the wall of the heart. “The most common ones are congenital heart defects, so the heart doesn’t form properly. Every birth defect that I’ve read about I have seen here at this hospital over the last 30 years. So we see them all,” said Branville-Davis.

The CDC web page for National Birth Defect Prevention month offers guides and tips for preventing birth defects, including a list of substances to avoid, and medication recommendations. Branville-Davis elaborated, “Talk to your healthcare provider before you would start or stop any medications, make sure you’re up to date on all your vaccines before you get pregnant, and avoid any harmful substances during your pregnancy like alcohol, smoking, marijuana, or any other drugs.”

For more information and a full list of preventative measures, visit the National Birth Defect prevention month page at CDC.GOV

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