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Rare Birth Defect Rates High in Benton, Franklin County — Health Dept. Seeks Answers

Health Department investigating rare birth defect rates in SE Washington
(Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

You might not have necessarily heard of Anencephaly, but the Washington State Department of Health is trying to find out why it’s showing up more often in Benton, Franklin and Yakima counties than the rest of the state.

Anencephaly is a fatal birth disorder that results from incomplete formation of the brain, usually during the first month of pregnancy.

According to the Washington State Department of Health, about one case is normally reported for every 10,000 births in our state. But officials found eight cases per 10,000 births in our region.

The WSDOH said Tuesday:

The study examined medical records from January 2010 through January 2013 and looked at possible risk factors including family history, pre-pregnancy weight, health risk behaviors such as supplemental folic acid and medication use, and whether the woman’s residence received drinking water from a public or private source. No significant differences were found when comparing cases of anencephaly with healthy births in the three county area.”

Officials say incomplete medical records may have kept data from being available that could help lead to more specific answers, but they plan to closely monitor the situation.

The DOH does strongly recommend pregnant mothers consult with their doctor to make sure they are consuming enough folic acid, which seems to help prevent the disorder. Women whose diets lacked folic acid during these stages of pregnancy were more prone to Anencephy as well as related spinal chord disorder spina bifida.

The WSDOH continues to work with the Centers for Disease control in monitoring and tracking birth defects and urge pregnant mothers to make sure they are under the care of a qualified physician during their pregnancy.

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