FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN RESOURCES
Recognizing Young Children Living with Birth Defects
Jan 05, 2015
By: Coleen A. Boyle, PhD, MSHyg
Did you know that birth defects affect one in every 33 babies born in the United States? Those aren’t just numbers—they represent real babies and families.
Elley was born with spina bifida, a birth defect of the spinal cord. She relies on a wheelchair to move around. Her mom, Maryanne, says, “Yes, heads turn when a wheelchair rolls into a room, but she uses that attention to force people to talk to her. She is a social butterfly!”
Elley’s family encourages her to do everything that anyone her age can do. Maryanne says, “We have to make alterations here and there to maneuver her around, but we try to treat her as normal as possible and not make her feel as if she is a burden in any way! We take family vacations and get her out of the house as much as possible. She loves to go to church, and we try to include her in all the activities with her age group She is extremely brave and although she has times of anxiety about the unknowns that may be facing her, she presses on with a courageous heart.”
January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), babies with birth defects who survive their first year of life can have lifelong challenges, such as problems with physical movement, learning, and speech. We know that early intervention is vital to improving the health for these babies.
Elley’s story underscores CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD)’s work to identify causes of birth defects, find opportunities to prevent them, and improve the health of those living with birth defects. NCBDDD’s mission is to promote the health of babies, children, and adults and enhance their potential for full, productive living.
Take a moment to learn more about how you can support a child and family living with a birth defect as well as steps that you can take to prevent birth defects if you are thinking of getting pregnant in the near future.
Coleen Boyle serves as Director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) at the CDC.