Make the PACT to Help Prevent Birth Defects this January

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan. 11, 2016)— The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) is working to raise awareness to help prevent birth defects this January, encouraging women and their families to learn more about this issue and take steps toward prevention. Governor Matt Bevin has officially proclaimed January as National Birth Defects Prevention Month in the Commonwealth.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a baby is born with a birth defect every four and a half minutes in the United States. Research has shown that more birth defects can be prevented with the adoption of healthy habits and lifestyle choices prior to pregnancy. Public Health officials, along with the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN) and the CDC, are encouraging women to take the following four steps – or make the PACT– for birth defects prevention; Plan ahead, Avoid harmful substances, Choose a healthy lifestyle, and Talk to a healthcare provider.

“Women can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by managing health conditions and adopting these healthy behaviors before becoming pregnant,” said Dr. Ruth Shepherd, director of the Division of Maternal and Child Health in DPH. “Throughout the month of January, DPH will be focusing on raising awareness of this serious health issue not only among women and their families but also among health care professionals, educators, social service professionals, and the general public. Our goals are to highlight the prevalence of birth defects and the need to work together to prevent them.”

About 120,000 babies are affected by birth defects each year in the United States; about 7,000 of them in Kentucky. Not only can birth defects lead to lifelong challenges and disabilities, they are associated with approximately one in every five infant deaths. 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.

The PACT to help prevent birth defects emphasizes several important steps. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant are advised to;
– Plan ahead by getting as healthy as possible before becoming pregnant and taking 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
– Avoid harmful substances by not drinking alcohol or smoking and being careful with harmful exposures to chemicals or noxious substances at work and home.
– Choose a healthy lifestyle that includes a diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean proteins, and healthy fats and oils; being physically active; and properly managing chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure.
– Talking to your healthcare provider about medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) and any family medical history that is a concern.

Many different kinds of birth defects exist. Some have only a minor and brief effect on a baby’s health, while others have life-threatening or life-long effects, which can often be lessened by early detection and treatment.

The NBDPN is working with healthcare professionals and public health agencies around the country to encourage prevention and awareness of birth defects among the over 60 million women of childbearing age and their partners in the United States. Further information about the NBDPN can be found at

To learn more, please contact Kentucky’s Birth Surveillance Registry Program at 502-564-4830 ext. 4394 or Written information, including the 2016 NBDPN Birth Defects Prevention information packet called Making Healthy Choices to Prevent Birth Defects: Make a PACT for Prevention is available online at: All materials can be printed, electronically conveyed, or added to websites for distribution as needed

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