CONCORD — July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month and a number of N.H. Department of Health and Human Services programs are helping to prevent cleft lip and cleft palate in New
Among the services these programs provide are: customized, free help quitting tobacco (1-800-QUIT-NOW); free texts on how to have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby through Text4Baby; prenatal services through N.H. Medicaid, NHEasy.NH.gov; and nutrition education and nutritious foods to help keep pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and preschool children healthy and strong through N.H. WIC services.
On average, there are 12,000 babies born in New Hampshire each year, 8.34% of whom are born with a cleft lip and 7.82% with a cleft palate. Orofacial clefts happen early during pregnancy. A baby can have a cleft lip, a cleft
palate, or both. Babies born with these birth defects have problems with feeding, hearing, and speech development; dental problems, including missing teeth; and frequent middle ear infections.
Correction of cleft defects requires surgery. Some factors that increase the chance of having a baby with an orofacial cleft are maternal smoking, having diabetes, and use of certain medications to treat epilepsy, such as topirimate and valproic acid.
"DHHS has a number of programs working toward reducing these birth defects by addressing these risk factors," said Marcella Bobinsky, Acting Director of Public Health at DHHS. "Because birth defects can develop before a woman
even knows she is pregnant, it is important that she takes care of her health from the start. Addressing health risk behaviors even before pregnancy is important, such as taking 400 micrograms of folic acid every day and quitting smoking to reduce the risk of poor birth outcomes."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that:
· Women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have a baby with an orofacial cleft than women who do not smoke.
· Women with diabetes diagnosed before pregnancy have an increased risk of having a child with a cleft lip with or without cleft palate,
compared with women who did not have diabetes.
· Women who used certain medicines to treat epilepsy, during the first trimester (the first three months) of pregnancy have an increased risk of
having a baby with cleft lip with or without cleft palate, compared with women who didn't take these medicines.
For information on the N.H. Birth Conditions Program visit www.nhbcp.org. Resources for women, infants, and children and the many programs of DHHS, such as the Diabetes Education Program, the Maternal and Child Health
Program, NH WIC, Text4Baby, and the Oral Health Program, can be found at www.dhhs.nh.gov. DHHS currently offers free help quitting tobacco use through 1-800-QUIT-NOW (www.TryToStopNH.org).