JANUARY 2018 is Birth Defects Prevention Month

Prevent to Protect: Preventing Infections for Baby's Protection

Michigan Birth Defects Proclamation

Press Release

National Birth Defects Prevention Month 2018 Toolkit

The theme for 2018 is “Prevent to Protect: Prevent infections for baby’s protection.” We know that not all birth defects can be prevented. But, we also know that women can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by reducing their risk of getting an infection during pregnancy. Please encourage all pregnant women and those who may become pregnant to:

Get vaccinated.

Check with your health care provider to be sure that your flu and whooping cough vaccinations are up-to-date before getting pregnant. Your healthcare provider can also tell you about vaccinations you should receive during pregnancy.

Get the flu shot and whooping cough vaccine. MI healthy baby
  • The flu and whooping cough can cause serious illness in pregnant women and their developing babies. Gatting vaccinated can help protect your child for several months after they are born. Doctors recommend getting the vaccine for whooping cough in your third trimester.
  • Getting the flu isn't restricted to flu season. Stay on the safe side and get the flu shot before you become pregnant or as soon as possible after you know you are pregnant
Become up-to-date with all vaccines before getting pregnant.
  • Getting your vaccines can help prevent symptoms related to certain infections, such as fever, which can be harmful to a developing baby. Talk to your doctor to find out what vaccines they recommend you receive before getting pregnant, including the MMR vaccine. Don’t forget to encourage other members of your family to get vaccinated too!

Prevent insect bites.

Pregnant women should take steps to reduce their risk of being bitten by a mosquito. Mosquitos can carry several infections, including West Nile virus, Dengue virus, malaria, and Zika virus. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, a sign of incomplete brain development.

What can you do to prevent insect bites:

MI healthy babyUse Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus (paramenthane-3,8-diol).

  • Insect repellants prevent bites by making people less attractive to mosquitos and ticks. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

When mosquitos are active wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

  • Mosquitos can carry several infections, including West Nile virus, Denguevirus, malaria, and Zika virus. Ticks can also carry many infections, such as Lyme disease. These infections can be dangerous to your unborn baby. Lyme disease that goes untreated can cause brain, nerve, spinal cord, and heart problems while Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly.
  • Mosquitos are most active at dusk and dawn while ticks are active at all times of the day, typically in warmer months. Minimizing areas of exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, boots, and hats can help prevent bites.

Consider avoiding travel to areas with Zika virus.

  • Because Zika infection during pregnancy can cause severe birth defects, pregnant women should not travel to affected areas. Partners of pregnant women and couples considering pregnancy should know the risks to pregnancy and take prevention steps. All travelers should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites and prevent sexual transmission during and after the trip. When traveling to visit friends or family, think about possible health risks during your trip. If Zika is in the area you are visiting, protect yourself and loved ones from mosquito bites.

Practice good hygiene.

Hygiene refers to the activities that help prevent the spread of infections. Personal hygiene can include hand washing, bathing, and brushing your teeth. Practicing good hygiene is one of the simplest steps that women can take to prevent infections. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not maintaining good hygiene.

What you can do to practice good hygiene:

Wash your hands often with soap and water.MI healthy baby

  • Washing your hands is an easy step that can help prevent infections. Microbes and germs that spread illness can linger on hands after you touch something. To remove as many germs as possible rinse your hands under clean running water, lather with soap (remember to lather both the back and front!), scrub your hands together for 20 seconds, and then rinse with clean running water. Always remember to wash your hands after contact with any bodily fluids, such as saliva or urine.
  • Pregnant women who work with young children, such as day care workers or health care workers, should take extra steps to prevent infection such as wearing gloves when changing diapers.

Avoid putting a young child's cups or pacifiers in your mouth.

Talk to your healthcare provider.

Two women

Whether you are currently planning a pregnancy or not, talk to your healthcare provider about preconception and reproductive health care. Healthcare providers will tell you what you can do to prevent infections, like influenza, Zika and sexually transmitted diseases (referred to as STIs or STDs), before and during pregnancy.

Consider discussing these topics with your healthcare provider to reduce your risk of getting an infection during pregnancy:

How you can prevent infections, such as Zika virus.

  • Ensure you’re protecting yourself from all types of infections by talking to your health care provider. They can provide you with the important steps you need to take to prevent infections, such as Zika virus, from affecting you and your developing baby.

How to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STDs).

  • Your partner may not show symptoms even when they are infected with certain viruses and STDs. Avoiding sex eliminates your risk of getting an infection, but you can also take action to protect yourself by using condoms and dental dams, which can lower your risk of infection.

Congenital Syphilis Alert

Syphilis is on the rise across the nation. Untreated syphilis in pregnancy can cause serious problems for the baby, like being born too soon or too small. It can even cause stillbirth or neonatal death. If a baby is born with syphilis, it is called congenital syphilis. Congenital syphilis can cause lifelong problems unless adequately treated.

Some problems that can occur if not treated right away are:

  • Severe anemia
  • Deformed bones
  • Brain and nerve problems, like blindness or deafness
  • Rashes

The only way a baby can get congenital syphilis is if an infected mother passes it to her baby during pregnancy. Here’s what an infected mom can do to protect her baby:

  • Keep all her prenatal checkups, even when feeling fine.
  • Get treated right away.
  • Ask her partner to get tested and treated for syphilis so she does not get re-infected.
  • Use a barrier method of birth control, like a condom.


MDHHS Communicable Disease Information and Resources

MDHHS Guidelines for Testing and Reporting (for Perinatal Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Hepatitis B and Syphilis

CDC Fact Sheet on Congenital Syphilis

CDC Fact Sheet on STDs during pregnancy

March of Dimes Congenital Syphilis Key Points

March of Dimes Congenital Syphilis Infographics in English and Spanish.

MDHHS Perinatal Syphilis Brochure (for providers coming soon)

Substance Use During Pregnancy

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are 100% preventable. Play it smart! Alcohol and pregnancy don't mix.

Narcotics - Prescription and Illicit

healthy baby

“When mothers use illicit or prescription drugs during the pregnancy, infants can present with drug withdrawal symptoms after birth, called neonatal withdrawal syndrome (NWS). The risk for NWS is greatest when the mother uses prescription pain relievers known as opioids analgesics or heroin during the pregnancy." Neonatal Drug Withdrawal among Michigan Infants.

Resources for Recovery

More Prevention Resourceshealthy baby

Resources are available through the Michigan Birth Defects Prevention Program and the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN). Please share these resources to help reach millions of women and decrease their risk for birth defects. (Resources in English, Spanish and Arabic.)

2018 Prevent to Protect infographic in Spanish

Michigan Birth Defects Prevention Program

Health & Nutrition Information for Pregnant & Breastfeeding Women - Great for tracking healthy habits!

Michigan Birth Defects Prevention Month Archive

Past NBDPN Resources