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Birth Defects Prevention Month

About 120,000 babies are affected by birth defects each year in the United States. Not only can birth defects lead to lifelong challenges and disability, they are also the most common cause of death in infants and the second most common cause of death in children aged one to four years

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. The theme for 2019 is “Best for You. Best for Baby.” We know that not all birth defects can be prevented. But you can increase your chances of having a healthy baby by doing what you can to be your healthiest self both before and during pregnancy. See the five tips for preventing birth defects below to learn what is best for you and best for your baby:

Tip 1: Be sure to take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.

Folic acid is very important because it can help prevent some major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine. Our bodies use this B vitamin to make new cells. Folate is found naturally in certain fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Folic acid is found in fortified foods (called "enriched foods"), such as breads, pastas, and cereals. In addition to eating foods with folate from a varied diet (including foods like spinach and avocado), you can also take a vitamin that has folic acid in it every day.

Tip 2: Book a visit with your healthcare provider before stopping or starting any medicine.

Planning how to take care of your health conditions before you become pregnant can help keep you and your developing baby healthy. Don’t forget to talk about your family history when visiting your healthcare provider! Based on your family history, your doctor might alter your care or refer you for genetic or nutritional counseling.

Tip 3: Become up-to-date with all vaccines, including the flu shot.

Vaccines help protect you and your baby. Some vaccinations, such as the flu (influenza) vaccine and the Tdap vaccine (adult tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis vaccine), are specifically recommended during each pregnancy.

Tip 4: Before you get pregnant, try to reach a healthy weight.

Obesity increases the risk for several serious birth defects and other pregnancy complications. If you are underweight, overweight, or obese, talk with your healthcare provider about ways to reach and maintain a healthy weight before you get pregnant. Eating healthy foods and being physically active are great ways to prepare for pregnancy.

Tip 5: Boost your health by avoiding harmful substances during pregnancy, such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.


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