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8 things you can do to prevent birth defects

Published on November 18, 2014

Nearly 4 million babies are born every year in the U.S. Of those, about 1 in every 33 babies are born with a birth defect ranging from cardiovascular problems to musculoskeletal and down syndrome to developmental disabilities. With so many things that can go wrong during pregnancy or birth, it’s important that soon-to-be mothers do everything they can to ensure their child’s safety and health. Here are 8 things you can do to help prevent birth defects:

1.) Take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily. This important B vitamin can help prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine.

2.) Don’t drink alcohol at any time during pregnancy. This one may seem obvious, but many women don’t understand how harmful any type of alcohol cn be. When a woman drinks alcohol, it’s passed on through the placenta to her baby through the umbilical cord. There is no good time, no right kind of alcohol, nor is there a safe amount to consume during pregnancy. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

3.) Stop smoking. It’s a tough habit to break, but it’s worth it. Smoking during pregnancy can cause premature birth, birth defects, low birth weight, and infant death.

4.) Don’t use illegal drugs. Using drugs during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born premature, have low birth weight, or have other health problems including birth defects. It’s also important to stay away from drugs after a woman gives birth, for drugs can be passed through breast milk to her baby and can affect growth and development.

5.) Meet with a doctor to discuss any medications you’re taking or would like to take. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, or herbal products. Certain medications taken during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects.

6.) Talk to your doctor about vaccinations. Some vaccinations are safe and even recommended during pregnancy, and some are not. Ask your doctor what vaccinations you should take at what time.

7.) Reach and maintain a healthy weight. This one can be difficult considering you may crave some not-so-healthy foods and you have that extra excuse of “feeding for two.” However, maintaining a healthy weight is important in order to prevent complications during pregnancy or serious birth defects. Women who are overweight or obese (body mass index of 30 or higher) should consult their doctor about ways to reach a healthy weight before you get pregnant.

8.) Most importantly, see a health care professional regularly. If you plan on getting pregnant, see your doctor as soon as possible to start prenatal care. Then be sure to schedule regular visits throughout your pregnancy. This will help to lessen the likelihood of problems during pregnancy or birth.

Pregnancy is an exciting and sometimes stressful time for women. By following the above steps, you can rest a little easier knowing your little one is on his or her way to a healthy start in life.

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