January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month; here are some lifestyle tips to help avoid them

Kentucky’s Department of Public Health is working to raise awareness to help prevent birth defects this January during National Birth Defects Prevention Month, an issue that affects about 7,000 Kentucky babies each year, according to a Cabinet for Health and Family Services news release.

“Women can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by managing health conditions and adopting these healthy behaviors before becoming pregnant,”Dr. Ruth Shepherd, director of the Department of Public Health Division of Maternal and Child Health, said in the news release.

Every four and a half minutes in the United States, a baby is born with a birth defect, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationally, about 120,000 babies are affected by birth defects each year.

While some birth defects are inevitable, research shows that many can be prevented with the adoption of healthy habits and lifestyle choices prior to pregnancy.

This understanding has prompted this year’s National Birth Defects Prevention campaign, which calls for women who are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant to follow the following four steps, or make a “PACT,” to increase their chances of having a healthy baby:

  • Plan ahead. Get as healthy as possible before becoming pregnant and take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
  • Avoid harmful substances. Don’t drink alcohol or smoke and be careful with harmful exposure to chemicals or noxious substances at work and home.
  • Choose a healthy lifestyle. Primarily eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean proteins, and healthy fats and oils. Be physically active and make sure you manage any chronic conditions, like diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Talk to your health care provider. Make sure to share a complete family medical history with your provider, including any medications that you take. 
In addition to these efforts, “Public awareness, expert medical care, accurate and early diagnosis, and social support systems are all essential for optimal prevention and treatment of these sometimes deadly conditions,” says the release. To learn more, please contact Kentucky’s Birth Surveillance Registry Program at 502-564-4830 ext. 4394 or click here.
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