Birth Defects Do Not Define Your Baby

January is Birth Defect Awareness Month and there is a lot of information available to help with education and prevention.

Prevention is very important for improving the chances of a healthy baby. The National Birth Defects Prevention Network and the CDC have partnered together with resources and a 2021 campaign with the slogan “Best for You. Best for Baby."

Here are some tips for birth defect prevention:

  1. Before you get pregnant, try to reach a healthy weight.
  2. Be sure to take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
  3. Book a visit with your healthcare provider before stopping or starting any medicine.
  4. Become up-to-date with all vaccines, including the flu shot.
  5. Boost your health by avoiding substances that are harmful during pregnancy.

With all that said, sometimes these tips may not completely “prevent” birth defects, so please do not try to blame yourself or your baby if this happens. Also, you may encounter birth defects if your family chooses to foster/adopt. Birth defects do not define the individual. Your little one is a gift, a miracle, and will touch so many lives with their unique personality. Through years of research, there are so many resources, support, and services available for families with children with birth defects.

Here are some helpful resources and/or websites:

  1. March of Dimes: Information on pregnancy care, caring for and feeding your baby, and pregnancy or birth complications and loss. They have a great campaign for premature birth.
  2. CDC: Information on pregnancy care, birth defects, fact sheets, infographics, and videos. There is also information about healthy living, diseases, and conditions.
  3. USDA, WIC: Information on WIC (Women Infants and Children), health and wellness, nutrition education, and pregnancy. There are videos, fact sheets, infographics, and other resources for family support and advocacy.

Therapies, including occupational, physical, and speech therapy, are a few of the services that are available to work with you and your little one to help achieve their maximum potential. Therapists fully believe that a birth defect does NOT define your baby. Therapists work on improving your child's fine and gross motor, feeding, and/or speech/communication skills; not the diagnosis or birth defect.

Depending on the type of birth defect, you and your therapists may become close…meaning you may work with them 2 or more times a week. As a physical therapist myself, these families have become friends in the sense that they feel supported, safe, and trust our knowledge to help. There will be good and bad days, and sometimes it may feel like those “goals” will take forever to reach. But when that time comes, however long it takes, just know that your therapists are right there to cheer you and your little one along…We may even shed some tears!

-Whitney Castle, PT, DPT