BATH — The Sagadahoc County Board of Health declared January to be “Birth Defect Prevention Month” at a Jan. 6 meeting, in conjunction with a national campaign to spread awareness about birth defects.

According to a press release, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that one in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect, with heart defects the most common.

To address the issue, the county board of health is promoting this week as national folic acid awareness week by encouraging pregnant women to begin taking a vitamin with 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily.

Melissa Streeter, an obstetrician gynecologist at Mid Coast Hospital, said in the release that “the risk for most defects involving the spinal column (“neural tube defects”), such as spina bifida and anencephaly, can be reduced by consuming folic acid daily and during early pregnancy.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, additional steps that a woman can take to prepare for a healthy pregnancy include:

— Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and street drugs.

— Keep hands clean by washing them often with soap and water to prevent infections.

— See a health care professional regularly.

— Talk with the health care professional about any medical problems and medicine use (both prescription and over-the-counter).

— Ask about avoiding any substances at work or at home that might be harmful to a developing baby.

— Eat a healthy, balanced diet.

— Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and foods made from it.

— Avoid eating raw or under cooked meat.

For more information about preventing birth defects, visit www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/index.html.

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