Expecting a child is one of the greatest moments in a person's life. However, there is always a chance that birth defects can occur. While there is no way to avoid congenital disabilities altogether, with January being Birth Defects Prevention Month, we thought it would be a good time to share some things that you can do to decrease the chances of your child being born with a birth defect.
1. Folic Acid
Folic acid is one of the most essential nutrients in preventing major birth defects that can affect a baby's brain and spine. These defects develop very early during pregnancy when the neural tube, forming the early brain and spinal cord, does not close properly. It helps to start taking folic acid one month before you plan to become pregnant and throughout the entirety of your pregnancy.
It is recommended to take at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
Besides eating foods with natural folate such as green vegetables, asparagus, lentils, and fortified cereals, there are also a few other ways you can get your fix of folic acid, including:
- Taking folic acid vitamins daily
- Most multivitamins in the US have the recommended amount of folic acid women need each day. Consult the label on the bottle to be absolutely sure it contains 100% of the daily value of folic acid, which should be 400 mcg.
- Eat more fortified foods such as: bread, breakfast cereals, and corn masa flour.
2. Visit a Healthcare Provider Before Stopping/Starting a New Medicine
If you are planning on getting pregnant, talk with your OBGYN about any medications that you are currently taking. Some medications can make it difficult to become pregnant or cause birth defects in developing fetuses, so it is essential to adjust your treatment plan before you become pregnant to keep you and your developing baby healthy.
3. Stay Up-To-Date With All Current Vaccines, Including the Flu Shot
Vaccines help to protect you and your unborn baby against serious diseases. Make sure that you are up to date on your flu shot and whooping cough vaccine (also known as Tdap).
4. Before Pregnancy, Try to Reach a Healthy Weight
If you are underweight or overweight, talk with your healthcare provider on how you can reach and maintain a healthy weight before you become pregnant. Obesity increases the risk of several severe birth defects, as well as other pregnancy complications. Being underweight can also increase the risk of several complications, such as premature births.
By focusing on taking care of yourself by eating nourishing foods and exercising regularly, you can be sure to improve your health so that you can have a healthy pregnancy.
5. Avoid Harmful Substances
There is no known amount of alcohol that is safe during pregnancy, or when trying to get pregnant for that matter. Alcohol causes problems for developing babies throughout pregnancy, so it's vital to stop drinking alcohol when pregnant.
Smoking can cause cancer and heart disease, amongst other health problems. If you are smoking during pregnancy, this can also harm your developing baby and cause various congenital disabilities. Quitting smoking can help you feel better and provides a healthier environment for your baby.
The use of narcotics during pregnancy can cause massive health problems for a woman and her developing baby. If you are trying to get pregnant or are pregnant and can't stop using narcotics, reach out for help. Your healthcare provider can assist you in finding counseling, treatment, and other support services.
If you feel there is an aspect we have not discussed or have some concerns you'd like to talk to us about, feel free to contact us and schedule an appointment. We're here to help you every step of the way.