Make Healthy Choices to Prevent Birth Defects!

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. Not all birth defects can be prevented, but by making healthy choices, moms can help ensure better health outcomes for their babies.

Many families hear about the importance of folic acid. Folic acid is a B vitamin that can help prevent certain birth defects affecting the brain and spine such as anencephaly and spina bifida. Pregnant women should get at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, which can come from fortified foods or supplements, or a combination of the two, in addition to a varied diet rich in folate. These foods include leafy green vegetables, beans, peas, and nuts, among other foods.

Pregnant mothers should avoid using drugs and alcohol during pregnancy. Certain drugs can increase the chance of babies being born preterm and can also increase the chance that a baby is born with a birth defect. Alcohol use can increase the risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). No amount of drugs or alcohol have been deemed safe during pregnancy, so the safest and best option is to avoid them completely.

Infection prevention is very important in preventing birth defects. Pregnant moms should avoid contact with people who have infections. They should always wash their hands prior to eating or preparing food or after handling any items that could cause illness or infection. They should also make sure that any meat they consume is fully cooked.

Frequent follow-up with a healthcare provider is another important way for moms to ensure a healthy outcome for their baby. Seeing an OBGYN regularly can help help moms and their families know how the fetus is developing and if there are any health concerns. Of course, moms should always express any issues to their healthcare provider.




Home visitation helps moms make a great start!




These are common responses to caring for children—especially newborns.

  • Would you like to be the best parent that you can be: loving, caring, understanding and meeting the needs of your baby?
  • Would it be helpful to you to have someone with a listening ear? How about support when you’re frustrated or down?
  • Would you like to know about services that would benefit you and your family as they grow and develop?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, a home visiting program may be just what you need to assist you.

Home visits by trained personnel can provide you with the tools, support and knowledge that you need in order to develop a secure bond with your children and to create a positive, trusting environment.

Positive early experiences can help lessen the impact of difficulties when they do occur and build resilience in your child.

Children who are physically and emotionally healthy become resilient adults who become assets to our communities.

Your children deserve a healthy start and you, the parent, deserve the support that you need to accomplish the important task of nurturing your child well during these important early years.

If you would like to learn more about the home-based care program, HUGS (Help Us Grow Successfully), at the Shelby County Health Department call:

Linda Busby, RN, HUGS Supervisor

What is 17P?

Are you the mother of one of the 500,000 preterm babies born each year in the United States? And, sadly, was your baby one of the 11,300 infants who dies on the first day of birth?

The major cause of infant death is prematurity which is one-third of all infant deaths in the United States. If you have given birth to a baby before 37 weeks of pregnancy, you have delivered a premature baby. When you become pregnant again, there will be an increased risk that your next child will be born too early, facing chronic medical problems, disabilities and/or death before his/her first birthday.

There is help for mothers who have had premature infants and are pregnant again. It is a medication called 17 Alpha-hydroxyprogesterone caproate, or just “17P”, which can decrease the risk of preterm birth by 33%. If, after evaluation by your health care provider, you qualify for 17P, you will receive a 17P injection once a week from the 16th to the 36th week of your pregnancy.

If you are currently pregnant, consider 17P if:

• You have previously delivered a baby before 37 weeks of pregnancy, and
• You are carrying one baby (singleton).

Be the proud Mom of a baby born on time!


More information is available on 17P here!

Infant Feeding during the Holidays


During the holiday season, families gather together to reminisce, exchange gifts, eat, and socialize. When babies are a part of the family, many relatives may be excited to meet and spend time with their families’ newest additions.

Infant feeding can create some challenges for parents and caregivers, as their family members may be unfamiliar with their preferred feeding methods. There are several ways that babies are fed. Here is some information and tips on how to encourage family members to support parents and caregivers, no matter how they may feed their babies.

Breastfeeding is a common means of infant feeding for families. Breastfeeding mothers need support from family to make the process easier. During the holiday season, help breastfeeding mothers by helping provide a relaxing place for them to nurse. Bring them water and snacks to help them stay hydrated and nourished.

Mothers who pump (whether part-time or full-time) need the same support. Give them a clean and comfortable place to pump. Assist with washing and sterilizing their pump parts and baby’s bottles. And since the milk is in a bottle, help feed the baby his or her milk and give mom time to fellowship with family and friends.

Moms who formula feed can use support from their family members during the holidays as well. Help mom clean and prepare bottles. Always check instructions to make sure that the formula is being properly mixed and prepared. Give mom a comfortable place to sit and feed baby or help by feeding the baby and letting mom have an opportunity to relax.

Babies over the age of 6 months may be eating solid foods. ALWAYS check with parents and caregivers before feeding a baby anything other than his or her breast milk or formula. Babies may have food allergies or may become ill from eating a food with which their stomachs are unfamiliar.

However families feed their babies – whether it is via nursing, exclusive pumping, supplementing with formula, or complete formula feeding – provide the support that they need to make the holiday season easier.

Did You Know…?

Did you know that December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month?

In December, many children may receive gifts for various cultural and religious holidays. It is important for parents and caregivers to be aware of the safety and appropriate age ranges for toys that they may give to babies, toddlers, and older children in order to prevent injury or death.

Here are some tips for choosing safe toys for children:

  • Consider the child’s age, interests and skill level. Look for quality design and construction, and follow age and safety recommendations on labels.
  • Use a small parts tester to determine whether small toys may present a choking hazard to children under age 3. Small parts testers can be purchased at toy or baby specialty stores or you can use the cardboard core of a toilet paper roll – if a toy can pass through, it is too small for young children and may cause them to choke if swallowed.
  • Avoid toys with sharp points or edges, toys that produce loud noises, and projectiles (such as darts).
  • Avoid toys with strings, straps or cords longer than 7 inches that may pose a risk for strangulation for young children.
  • Avoid electrical toys with heating elements for children under age 8.
  • Avoid cap guns that use caps that can be ignited by the slightest friction and can cause serious burns.

Remember these facts about safety!

  • Falls and choking cause most toy-related deaths and injuries in children. Choking alone causes one third of all toy-related deaths – most often from balloons.
  • Children 4 years old and younger account for almost half of all toy-related injuries and almost all deaths.
  • Children younger than age 3 are at the greatest risk of choking because they tend to put objects – especially toys – in their mouths.

Great News in Shelby County!


The Shelby County Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in 2015 was 8.2 deaths per 1,000 live births, the lowest ever recorded in Shelby County, TN.

“We have made significant improvements and are encouraged by the decreased rate,” said Alisa Haushalter, DNP, RN, director of the Shelby County Health Department. “We will continue to collaborate with all partners; partners who work tirelessly to ensure all babies not only live to celebrate their first birthday but thrive in a healthy community.”

The IMR, the rate at which babies die before their first birthday, is complex and results from a variety of contributing factors throughout the course of the mother’s life–before, during and between pregnancies. Reductions in the number of infant deaths are the result of improvements in early access to care, minimizing health risks, increasing breastfeeding rates as well as other education and outreach efforts.

“I’m pleased to see the drop in the infant mortality rate in Shelby County,” said Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell, Jr. “I commend the staff at the Shelby County Health Department and so many of our community partners. Their educational programs about healthy lifestyles have certainly assisted many mothers and their children at this critical time in their lives.

In Shelby County, the leading causes of infant deaths are primarily associated with birth defects, low-weight births, maternal complications from pregnancy, prematurity and Sudden Unexplained Infant Deaths.
The largest decline in 2015 was in the rate of infant deaths among non-Hispanic Blacks, which went from 21.0 in 2003 to 10.6. Although Blacks experienced a significant decline in the number and rate, they continue to disproportionately experience infant deaths.

The national IMR target established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through Healthy People 2020 is 6.0 deaths per 1,000 live births, and Shelby County is headed in the right direction.

Families are encouraged to do the following before, during and after a pregnancy:

• Plan the pregnancy and talk to a healthcare provider;
• Be tobacco-free;
• Take a daily dose of folic acid (400 mcg);
• Begin prenatal care within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy;
• Know the ABCs of Safe Sleep: Babies should sleep ALONE, on their BACK and in a CRIB.

Decrease Your Risk of Preterm Birth — Shelby County Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative

Did you know that 1 in 10 babies are born too early in Tennessee? In Memphis, 13.7% of all babies are born prematurely or before 37 weeks gestation. Preterm birth is one of the leading causes of infant mortality. When a baby is born prematurely, he/she might need special care in the hospital. The baby is also at risk for life long disabilities or death.

See more information at Decrease Your Risk of Preterm Birth — Shelby County Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative