1Ufficio Promozione della Ricerca, Dipartimento Direzione Medica Ospedaliera e Farmacia, Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria Integrata, Verona; 2IRCCS Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù, Roma; 3Consiglio per la Ricerca e la sperimentazione in Agricoltura (CRA-NUT), Roma; 4Alessandra Lisi International Centre on Birth Defects and Prematurity-ICBD, WHO collaborating Centre, Roma
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Key words: Birth defects, Prematurity, Prevention, Reproductive health
Birth defects and prematurity are relatively common events. In Italy they affect approximately 90,000 infants every year and are a leading cause of infant mortality. Babies who survive and live with birth defects have an increased risk of developing many lifelong physical, cognitive, and social challenges. The risk for many types of birth defects and prematurity can be reduced through healthy lifestyle choices and medical interventions before and during pregnancy. In 2010 WHO officially recognized that interventions to promote maternal and child health begin before pregnancy, stressing the importance of preconception period in the prevention of birth defects and reproduction adverse outcomes. Awareness efforts offer hope for reducing the number of birth defects and prematurity in the future. It is essential to support reproductive health and draw the attention of the population and health care professionals to the possibilities of primary prevention of congenital defects and prematurity that nowadays have become available thanks to research. In particular, in Italy there are several projects committed to preconception health, the implementation of which has resulted in the development of dedicated websites and the production of promotional material. 50% of births come from couples that already have a child. Therefore, the paediatrician is the clinician who has more contacts with women of childbearing age. Paediatric clinicians have to reconsider their role in promoting reproductive and preconceptional health, assuming leader positions in the efforts to reduce birth defects and prematurity.
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