Birth defects refer to health conditions that are present at birth. Also called congenital anomalies, the condition involves structural changes present at birth that can affect almost any part of the body (like heart, brain and foot) and may affect how the body looks, works or both. These conditions may result from pregnancy or birth complications, genetic malformations and chromosomal abnormalities. The health and well-being of a child with a birth defect depends mostly on the specific organ or body part involved and how much it gets affected. With an objective to recognize people living with birth defects, the month of January is observed as – “National Birth Defects Prevention Month”. The campaign aims to generate widespread awareness about birth defects and how these can impact the health of a baby. As per reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), birth defects are the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States. Treatment options can vary depending on the condition and level of severity as some birth defects can be corrected before birth or shortly afterwards whereas others may affect a child for the rest of his or her life. A combination of specialized treatment, and continued care along with strong social support help improve their overall quality of life. Medical billing and coding for different types of birth-related disorders can be challenging. When it comes to billing service, birth defects may be considered as the principal diagnosis or as additional diagnosis, based on the circumstances of the encounter. For accurate clinical documentation of this birth disorder, most pediatric specialists outsource medical billing and coding tasks to professional billing and coding companies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 1in 33 (around 120,000) babies in the United States are born with a birth defect each year. In fact, it is reported that every 4 ½ minutes a baby is born with a birth defect. The 2021 campaign is a good platform to share information on ways to plan for a healthy pregnancy and prevent birth defects with the patients, family, friends and followers. It aims to better empower women and their partners to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. Most birth defects are present within the first three months of pregnancy, when the organs are still forming. The exact causes of certain birth defects are often unknown and can result from a combination of factors like – family history of birth defects or other genetic disorders, infections during pregnancy, maternal age of 35 years or older, exposure to certain medications and chemicals, and certain lifestyle choices and behaviors (like drug use, alcohol consumption, or smoking during pregnancy). In addition, women with pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes, are also at a higher risk of having a child with a birth defect.

Typically, birth defects are classified as structural, and functional or developmental. Structural defects occur when a specific body part is missing or malformed and include – heart defects, cleft lip or palate, spina bifida and clubfoot. Functional or developmental birth defects are wherein a body part or system does not work properly and often cause disabilities of intelligence or development. The most common types of functional or developmental birth defects include Down syndrome, sickle cell disease, and cystic fibrosis. In some cases, children face certain physical problems associated with birth defects. However, many children do not show any visible abnormalities as these defects can sometimes go undetected for months or even years after the child is born.

The 2021 nationwide campaign is a unique platform to educate women and their families about the dangers of substance use and the importance of committing to healthy choices as a key strategy to prevent birth defects. Generally, many types of birth defects can be diagnosed during pregnancy. A healthcare professional performs prenatal ultrasounds to diagnose certain birth defects in utero. In addition, more in-depth screening options like blood tests and amniocentesis may also be done. In most cases, these tests are recommended for women who have higher-risk pregnancies due to family history, advanced maternal age, or other known factors. A detailed physical examination, hearing test and blood test (called the newborn screen) may also be performed to diagnose birth defects after the baby is born. Treatment for birth defects varies depending on the condition and level of severity. Certain types of defects can be corrected before birth or shortly after childbirth whereas others may affect a child for the rest of his or her life. The diagnosis and other treatment procedures administered by physicians must be correctly documented using the right medical codes. Medical coding services provided by professional medical billing companies are a great support for physicians. Experienced coders and billers make sure that the correct medical codes are reported on the claims. ICD -10 diagnosis codes for different types of birth defects include –

  • Q00-Q07 Congenital malformations of the nervous system
  • Q10-Q18 Congenital malformations of eye, ear, face and neck
  • Q20-Q28 Congenital malformations of the circulatory system
  • Q30-Q34 Congenital malformations of the respiratory system
  • Q35-Q37 Cleft lip and cleft palate
  • Q38-Q45 Other congenital malformations of the digestive system
  • Q50-Q56 Congenital malformations of genital organs
  • Q60-Q64 Congenital malformations of the urinary system
  • Q65-Q79 Congenital malformations and deformations of the musculoskeletal system
  • Q80-Q89 Other congenital malformations
  • Q90-Q99 Chromosomal abnormalities, not elsewhere classified

The theme for the 2021 nationwide campaign is “Best for You Best for Baby” which signifies the relevance of preventing the occurrence of birth defects. As not all birth defects can be prevented, there are certain things that can help increase a woman’s chances of having a healthy, full-term pregnancy and a healthy baby. Women by doing what they can do to be at their healthiest self before and during pregnancy can increase their chances of having a healthy baby. In short, what is best for them is also best for their baby. The National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN) recommends certain best practices for pregnant women to prevent birth defects, which include – intake of 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily, staying up-to-date with all vaccines including flu shots, reaching a healthy weight before getting pregnant, consulting a healthcare provider before starting or stopping any medicine, preventing infections and avoiding harmful substances (alcohol, tobacco) during pregnancy.

As part of this monthly observance, a wide range of programs will be organized that encourage health advocates as well as the general public to become active participants in the observance. These include – following and sharing theme-based messages with the hashtag #Best4YouBest4Baby via social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, sharing the 2021 NBDPN information page (including this year’s primary tips for birth defects prevention), distributing handouts, sharing videos, podcasts, infographics and multi-media buttons online, wearing pink and blue custom awareness ribbons for birth defects prevention and sharing stories and photos of families affected by birth defects online.

Join National Birth Defects Prevention Month this January! Spread awareness about the different types of birth defects, causes, symptoms and prevention strategies.