Reina P. Cunningham
January is Birth Defects Prevention Month across the country and the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) is taking part in order to raise awareness in the hopes of lowering the rate of birth defects and infant mortality.
This observance allows health officials to call attention to the frequency of birth defects in the country and steps that can prevent them.
According to CHFS, birth defects are the leading cause of infant mortality in Kentucky and contribute significantly to childhood morbidity and long-term disability.
The Department for Public Health utilized the month to join the Kentucky Folic Acid Partnership to emphasize the importance of folic acid intake in the fight in preventing birth defects.
Dr. Nathan Mullins, OB-GYN at ARH Women’s Health Center in downtown Middlesboro, also emphasizes the importance of folic acid in the fight in preventing birth defects.
Mullins said women who want to become pregnant should take a multivitamin with folic acid before pregnancy and continue through their first trimester.
“Women need to understand the first trimester is a critical time for organ development,” said Mullins. “Folic acid can help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.”
Mullins also stresses the importance of making yourself healthy before pregnancy.
“Women also should avoid alcohol, tobacco and narcotics prior to becoming pregnant,” continued Mullins. “One of the most serious effects of drinking during pregnancy is fetal alcohol syndrome. That is why avoiding alcohol completely is best.”
According to Mullins, more studies are showing narcotic use can increase the risk of birth defects.
“Women with any drug addiction should seek treatment before getting pregnant,” Mullins insisted. “If you want to increase your chances of having a healthy baby, then focus on prevention and make healthy choices for yourself and your baby.”
The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is home to most of the state’s human services and health care programs, including Medicaid, the Department for Community Based Services and the Department for Public Health.
CHFS is one of the largest agencies in state government, with nearly 8,000 full and part-time employees throughout the Commonwealth focused on improving the lives and health of Kentuckians.
Reina P. Cunningham can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 606-248-1010, ext. 205.