January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month
Every 4½ minutes, a baby is born with a major birth defect. Birth defects are common, costly and critical. Professionals, community groups and the public can act to reduce the risk of certain birth defects and detect those that occur as soon as possible to reduce or prevent secondary complications.
While not all birth defects can be prevented, all women, including teens, can lower their risk of having a baby with a birth defect by following some basic health guidelines throughout their reproductive years.
It’s important to incorporate a “reproductive life plan” into an individual’s overall life plan. This includes creating personal goals about having, or not having, children based on health, personal values and resources.
It means taking steps to achieve optimal physical health, emotional well-being, and financial independence and stability prior to starting a family.
This year we encourage all women to make a PACT for their own health and for the family they may have one day.
- Get as healthy as you can before you get pregnant.
- Get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
Avoid harmful substances
- Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking.
- Be careful with harmful exposures at work and home.
Choose a healthy lifestyle
- Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, lean proteins, and healthy fats and oils.
- Be physically active.
- Work to get medical conditions like diabetes under control.
Talk to your doctor
- Get a medical checkup.
- Discuss all medications, both prescription and over-the-counter and herbal supplements.
- Talk about your family history.
Women and their loved ones can participate in their PACT and take these important preventive steps that can lead to a reduction in the number of birth defects.
Birth outcomes are shaped not only by the 9 months of pregnancy, but by the entire life course of the mother leading up to the pregnancy.
Learn more from the National Birth Defections Prevention Network.