National Infant Mortality Awareness Month
Every year, one in 45 infants in Northeast Florida is born with a major structural and/or genetic birth defect. The latest regional birth defects profile released by the Florida Department of Health shows that many babies are born to mothers who have risk factors for poor birth outcomes like defects and infant mortality.
By the numbers:
- 41 percent of NEFL births are to overweight or obese mothers, which is a risk factor for congenital heart defects, neural tube defects and limb defects
- 5 percent of NEFL births are to mothers with gestational or pre-gestational diabetes, which is a risk factor for congenital heart and neural tube defects
- 12 percent of NEFL births are to mothers over age 35, which increases the risk of Down Syndrome and pregnancy complications
- 11 percent of NEFL births are to mothers between 11 and 19, which is a risk factor for abdominal wall defect, called gastroschisis (young maternal age increases the risk 10 times)
- 24 percent of NEFL births are to black mothers, which is a risk factor for infant mortality, low birth weight and a specific congenital heart defect, tetralogy of Fallot.
While the specific causes of many birth defects are unknown, according to the profile, women can still take preventative measures.
Folic acid can prevent most neural tube defects when 400 mcg a day are taken prior to pregnancy. Fetal alcohol syndrome is 100 percent preventable if women do not drink at all during their pregnancy. Meeting with your doctor prior to pregnancy can also help manage health conditions — like diabetes and obesity — along with a review of family history and use of medications.