Newsroom > DHHS News Release


January 14, 2009

Marla Augustine, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047 or

Sound bites on this topic are available at:


Healthy Women Have Healthy Babies

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month

Lincoln—Birth defects are the second leading underlying cause of death for children in Nebraska, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

The most common are defects of the central nervous and circulatory systems.

While some birth defects are unavoidable, a woman’s health before and during pregnancy is a significant contributor to the likelihood of delivering a healthy baby, says the state’s Chief Medical Officer.

“Many women don’t realize how much their health choices may affect their babies,” said Dr. Joann Schaefer. “A woman should do everything to have a healthy body before even getting pregnant, and get care early in her pregnancy.”

Quitting smoking and taking a multivitamin containing folic acid helps prevent certain birth defects, like deformities of the spinal column and intestinal abnormalities. Thirty minutes of activity five days a week and a balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in fat are important to a woman’s health regimen.

Losing weight can also help. Nationally, one in five women of childbearing age is obese. Women who are overweight or obese have higher risk pregnancies. They are more likely to experience high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. These conditions can lead to the chance of having a premature birth. Their babies may also be more likely to be born with birth defects, like spinal column, brain and heart abnormalities.

“Women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant should take control of their health early to ensure a healthy pregnancy,” Dr. Schaefer said.

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month.

- 30 -