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Common, Costly, & Critical: January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month

“Birth defects are common, costly, and critical.” is the National Birth Defects Prevention Month theme for January 2014.

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Every 4 ½ minutes in the United States, a baby is born with a major birth defect. Birth defects are a leading cause of death among U.S. infants, causing roughly 20% of mortality in the first year of life. Babies born with birth defects are also more likely to have more illness and long term disability than babies without birth defects. National Birth Defects Prevention Month raises awareness about the frequency of birth defects occurring in the United States and the efforts to prevent them. While not all birth defects are preventable, women can do many things to prepare for a healthy pregnancy. The Center for Disease Control suggests:

  • Be fit. Eat a healthy diet and work towards a healthy weight before pregnancy.
  • Be healthy. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs. Be sure to consume at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before and during early pregnancy.  Work to get health conditions, like diabetes, in control before becoming pregnant.
  • Be wise. Visit a health care professional regularly. Consult with your healthcare provider about any medications, including prescription and over-the counter medications and dietary or herbal supplements, before taking them.

 

Awareness efforts offer hope for reducing the number of birth defects in the future. The National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN) suggests these additional prevention strategies:

  • Manage chronic maternal illnesses such as seizure disorders or phenylketonuria (PKU)
  • Avoid toxic substances at work or at home
  • Ensure protection against domestic violence
  • Know their family history and seek reproductive genetic counseling, if appropriate

 

Leslie Beres, MSHyg, President of National Birth Defects Prevention Network, said, It’s also important to remember that many birth defects happen very early during pregnancy, sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant, so planning a pregnancy is key and can also help make a difference.  Managing health conditions and adopting healthy behaviors before becoming pregnant increase a woman’s chances of having a healthy baby.

While approximately 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States has a birth defect, the international birth defect statistics are even more disheartening. According to a March of Dimes report, 6 percent of total births worldwide – almost 8 million children – are born with birth defects, with over 4 million infant deaths occurring annually due to birth defects and preterm birth.

When IVUmed started in 1992, our first programs were dedicated to pediatric urology.  Reproductive and urinary tract malformations are among the most common birth defects affecting children worldwide.

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IVUmed addresses the lack of available care through specialized intensive trainings and distance learning opportunities.  Due to continued demand, we have conducted these workshops in over 20 countries since the program first began.

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IVUmed has various pediatric urology training workshops scheduled for 2014, including visits to India, Kenya, Ghana, Honduras, Vietnam, Senegal, the West Bank, Mongolia, and Zambia.

 

Resources for this article:

March of Dimes

Center for Disease Control

National Birth Defects Prevention Network

 

 

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FGM, the prevalence

Governments and religious groups denounce it, treaties and bills have been signed against it, organizations and activists worldwide protest it; yet 140 million women young and old worldwide suffer from it. Female genital mutilation (FGM) continues to have desolate effects on the progress of Women’s Rights and Healthcare worldwide.

“The practice of female circumcision is rooted in gender inequality, cultural identity, and notions of purity, modesty, beauty, status and honor. The practice has been continuing in Africa because of cultural, tribal and religious factors that vary from country to country.

“Reasons for the continuation and perpetuation linked to FGM include many myths and false misperceptions…”

Continue to read this in-depth article published by the African Journal of Urology here.

Urological conditions and traumas, including FGM, have tremendous social and cultural implications. Challenges arise in promoting awareness of their detrimental effects.  A picture of a saddened face does not describe the emotional, psychological, social and physical effects of urological conditions and traumas. The beautiful African-print fabric draped over an injured woman’s body can hide the burdens of FGM, vesico-vaginal fistula, or the inability to bear children.

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Our Purpose for Service

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In just a few short weeks, an IVUmed volunteer team will be heading to Kampala, Uganda to conduct a female urology workshop. IVUmed workshops give our volunteer urologists the opportunity to change the lives of their host colleagues and their patients. The local doctors will gain essential surgical skills through training and educational models developed by IVUmed and its volunteers, who maintain professional contact throughout the year to continue the learning process.  Our international partners can then use their new capacity to help patients in their community, even after the volunteers have left.

This is a monumental event for our partner physicians, as well as patients like Veronica Nandego, shown above. Veronica Nandego mentions, “I have urinated on myself for 50 years.” Not only has she suffered countless years of public humiliation but has lost three children, lost ability to bear children and no longer presents proper urinary function. Veronica’s story is very common across Africa due to lack of capable physicians to perform the proper surgeries to deter maternal issues from becoming this severe.

IVUmed was contacted by local medical professionals in Uganda in hopes of coordinating for the upcoming workshop. We have had the opportunity to arrange travel arrangements for Veronica to reach Mulago Hospital, where the workshop will be hosted, approximately 45 kilometers away from her one-room hut in Bugembe.

Working with IVUmed’s volunteer physicians will better equip the local doctors with the skills they need to help many African women like Veronica return to society and  live a normal life.

IVUmed’s motto, Teach One, Reach Many, guides our continuing successes in improving the quality of life for individuals worldwide through building the confidence and skill sets of local medical professionals.

To read more about Veronica’s story and personal life, continue to this article.


Map of Uganda from Jinja district, where Veronica lives, to Mulago Hospital in Uganda.

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Mother’s Day 2012

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IVUmed is committed to making quality urological care available to people worldwide.