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.



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.


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.


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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Global Surgery Matters

According to the World Health Organization, the statistics are staggering:

  • 11% of global burden of disease can be treated with surgery
  • 2 billion people worldwide have no access to basic surgical care
  • 30% of the world’s population receive 75% of surgical care

IVUmed is trying to change that by training more surgeons where they are needed most.

Dr. Sherry Wren discusses the importance of surgery as a global health priority:

Visit our website to find out how you can help and get involved. 

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“Repairing the Surgery Deficit”

surgical education

Zambia currently has 44 licensed surgeons to serve its population of 13 million.  That is less than one surgeon (.33) per 100,000 people.  To put that in perspective, in the United States, there are about 45 surgeons per 100,000 people.  

Next month we have a team of volunteers heading to Lusaka, Zambia to conduct a pediatric urology workshop.  The volunteer experts will work at the University Teaching Hospital there, focusing on training and transferring skills to the local surgeons and professors so that they in turn can train more surgical students.

To read more about this pressing need for surgical training in Zambia, please read this recent article:

Repairing the Surgery Deficit
The New York Times

There are solutions to these problems.  IVUmed is committed to making a difference both in Zambia and throughout the world through surgical education.

volunteer surgical education

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