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Governor Proclaims Birth Defects Prevention Month

January 7, 2005

Bismarck, N.D. - Governor John Hoeven has proclaimed January as Birth Defects Prevention Month in North Dakota. Birth defects are the leading cause of infant mortality. Each year in the United States about 120,000 infants are born with a birth defect. Overall, serious birth defects affect more than 200 newborns each year in North Dakota.

"January has been designated as Birth Defects Prevention Month to highlight the public health impact of birth defects," Hoeven said.

One birth defect that is 100 percent preventable is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS is an irreversible, lifelong condition that affects every aspect of a child's life and the lives of the child's family. It is estimated that 1 in every 1,000 children born each year in the United States has FAS. Some researchers estimate that up to 10 times as many children are born each year with other prenatal alcohol-related conditions.

"FAS can occur when a woman drinks alcohol during her pregnancy," said State Health Officer Terry Dwelle, M.D. "There is no known safe amount. Women should avoid alcohol when they are pregnant, planning a pregnancy, or at risk of becoming pregnant."

In North Dakota, birth defects are monitored and studied by the North Dakota Birth Defects Monitoring System, a collaborative effort involving the North Dakota Department of Health, the North Dakota Department of Human Services (DHS), the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, and the University of North Dakota School of Medicine.

"It is extremely important to monitor birth defects, not only for prevention efforts, but to identify children who may benefit from services," said Human Services Executive Director Carol K. Olson.


Birth Defects Prevention Month: January 2005 (132kb pdf)


Terry Bohn of the Children's Special Health Services Unit of DHS at (701) 328-4963, or Heather Steffl (701) 328-4933


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