January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month
January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. The 2016 theme is “Making Healthy Choices to Prevent Birth Defects—Make a Pact for Prevention.” This awareness event is sponsored by the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN), which provides a plethora of resources to help promote awareness and prevention.
As pharmacists, you play a critical role in helping to spread awareness and prevention of birth defects. Many medicines on the market today have been associated with birth defects if taken during pregnancy. There are also several medicines that have not been tested for the possibility of causing birth defects if used during pregnancy. One of the best things you can do is to provide counseling to any pregnant woman about the potential dangers of using certain medications throughout the course of pregnancy.
There are some medications that may pose harm to the baby however, because circumstances with the mother, such as in the case of mental health, asthma, and epilepsy, the medications are not stopped during the pregnancy. In these situations, it is best to advise the mother-to-be about the best ways to continue taking the medicine while reducing potential harm to the unborn child. Encourage them to speak with their doctor about the risks and benefits of staying on the medicine versus discontinuing use of the medication so the two of them can make an informed decision together.
Beyond speaking directly with women who were visibly pregnant, your pharmacy can also participate in the campaign in a number of other ways.
- Include a National Birth Defects Prevention Month poster somewhere in the pharmacy where patients can easily see it.
- Include pamphlets and other handouts containing information about the prevention of birth defects.
- Work with other healthcare providers in the community to host a free event where parents-to-be can learn about the risks of birth defects in the best possible ways to go about preventing them.
- Share information such as statistics and prevention tips on your pharmacy social media accounts including Facebook and Twitter.
- Share information such as statistics and prevention tips in your pharmacy email newsletter.
- Counsel all patients on the risks of birth defects associated with any prescription medicines they may be picking up.
- Encourage patients to speak up about any natural or herbal supplements they are using in addition to prescription medication. Stress the potential for interactions with prescription medications and the fact that all natural does not always mean safe.