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January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and Greater Kansas Chapter March of Dimes are joining the National Birth Defects Prevention Network to share the message that a mother's health, including her weight before, during and after pregnancy, is an important foundation for having a healthy baby who grows into a healthy child. "Getting Fit for Pregnancy" is the theme of National Birth Defects Prevention Month in January.

Good health habits for everyone include knowing your family history, keeping regular check-ups with a doctor and maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and a healthy diet. For every woman of childbearing age, these habits should also include taking a multivitamin with 400 mcg of folic acid daily, starting before she gets pregnant, to improve the likelihood of delivering a healthy baby.

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Many women realize that being overweight increases their chance for diabetes and other health conditions in themselves. However, some may not realize that being obese or even just overweight creates unnecessary risks to the baby's health. Moms who are obese or overweight have higher risk pregnancies and can experience conditions such as hypertension, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. These conditions increase the odds of having a premature baby. In addition, studies show that babies of obese mothers are more likely to be born with birth defects like spina bifida.

Nationally, about 20 percent of women of child-bearing age are obese. This would equate to about 9,600 women in Kansas.

"Improving mothers' health, and ultimately their babies' health, is why we're working to reach women, their families and health care providers in our state with this important message," said Ileen Meyer, Director of the Children and Families Section at KDHE.

Women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant can make positive health choices to improve their chance of a healthy pregnancy. This should include regular physical activity, a balanced low-fat diet and routine visits with a doctor or other health care provider about making healthy changes to get fit for pregnancy.