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Birth Defects Still Affect 3 Percent of U.S. Babies

Greater prevalence among low birth weight and preterm infants

MONDAY, Jan. 14 (HealthDay News) -- The Jan. 11 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report marks January as National Birth Defects Prevention Month with a series of papers on prevalence and prevention.

L. Rynn, and colleagues at the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities report on data from the Metropolitan Atlanta Congenital Defects Program, the country's oldest population-based birth defects surveillance system, and analyzed data from 1978 to 2005, to find that the overall prevalence is stable. However, low birth weight and preterm babies, as well as those born to mothers aged over 35, had a greater prevalence of birth defects.

Joann R. Petrini, Ph.D., of the March of Dimes Foundation in White Plains N.Y., and colleagues report on use of folic acid supplements by women of childbearing age in the United States, analyzing data from a 2007 telephone survey of 2,003 women aged 18 to 45, which found that 40 percent of women reported daily consumption of a folic acid-containing supplement. Those least likely to be taking folic acid were non-white, aged 18 to 24 years, had a household income below $25,000, or less than a high school-level education.

"Innovative and effective messages tailored to women aged 18 to 24 years are needed to help change behaviors, increase awareness and knowledge regarding folic acid consumption, and ultimately reduce the incidence of neural tube defects," according to a related editorial.

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