January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, and this year the theme is “Making Healthy Choices to Prevent Birth Defects - Make a PACT for Prevention”. To honor this month, we’d like to take a moment tell you about PACT and folic acid. We will also link the complete 2015 National Birth Defects Prevention Network’s (NBDPN) packet here.
The NBDPN has come up with PACT, which covers a lot of the basic healthy choices a person can take if they are or become pregnant. PACT is outlined as follows:
Get as healthy as possible before becoming 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, and lean proteins.
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.
Talk about family history.
PACT is a great and easy way to remember simple, yet powerful healthy choices that can help reduce the risk of birth defects. Remember that the earlier a person begins making these healthy choices, such as avoiding drinking and smoking and being active, the better the results.
A subpart of National Birth Defect Awareness week is Folic Acid Awareness Week, which is from January 4th-10th this year. Listed under the P in Pact, folic acid is a B-vitamin that is necessary for proper cell growth. Folic acid has other benefits outside of pregnancy, including promoting healthy hair, skin, and nail growth. Folic acid can be found in fortified foods such as grains, pastas, and cereals. It is also found in papayas, asparagus, artichokes, lentils, avocados, and a variety of foods. If you can’t find a food you like with folic acid, it is also included in most multi-vitamins and can be purchased as its own vitamin.