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Actions can prevent birth defects, says Minnesota Dept of Health

ST. PAUL -- Healthy life choices can help prevent birth defects, the Minnesota Health Department says.

The department, the National Birth Defects Prevention Network and the Minnesota March of Dimes are working this month to get that message out to Minnesotans.

The groups say that birth defects are the leading cause of infant deaths and the second leading cause of death in children aged 1 to 4 in the United States. About 2,000 babies born in Minnesota each year have some form of birth defect.

"Most people are unaware of how common, costly and critical birth defects are in Minnesota and nationally," Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger said. "Fortunately, healthy lifestyle choices and medical interventions before and during pregnancy can reduce many types of birth defects and result in better infant health outcomes. We want to make all women in their reproductive years aware of the importance of being healthy before getting pregnant, the significance of the first few weeks of pregnancy and the value of taking folic acid on a regular basis."