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January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. It is impossible to prevent all birth defects but there are steps mothers can take before and during pregnancy to lower the risk of birth defects in their developing child. Mothers who do not properly manage their health and pregnancy are at high risk of health complications for not only themselves but their infants as well. By adopting healthy behaviors and managing health conditions, your chances of having a healthy baby drastically increase.

The CDC has released five tips for preventing birth defects in infants, which include:

  • Healthy weight – The CDC recommends mothers to be at a healthy weight before getting pregnant. Mothers or women wanting to start a family can begin with following a lifestyle of eating healthy and participating in physical activity. Obesity can not only affect a woman’s health during pregnancy, but it can also increase the risk of birth defects in a developing baby. It is important to note that along with being overweight, being underweight can also pose for serious birth defects and pregnancy complications. If you have concerns regarding your weight and pregnancy, speak to a medical professional immediately.
  • Visit your healthcare provider before starting or stopping medications – It is not uncommon for women to take medicine during pregnancy to stay healthy. Creating a treatment plan for your health before getting pregnant will help keep you and your unborn child. If you become pregnant before creating a treatment plan, discuss medications you are taking with your healthcare provider.
  • Take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily – If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, you should take at least 400 mcg of folic acid daily to ensure the proper development of your unborn child. Folic acid can help prevent major birth defects of your baby’s spine and brain. Along with eating food high in folic acids, such as leafy green vegetables, you can also get folic acid from:

                       – Fortified foods: You can find folic acid in certain bread, breakfast cereals, and corn masa flour.

– Vitamins: Many vitamins sold in the U.S. have the recommended dosage of folic acid you need. These vitamins can be found in most local pharmacies and grocery stores. Remember to always speak with your doctor or a medical health professional before consuming any vitamins.

  • Up-to-date on all vaccines (Including the flu vaccine) – Being up-to-date on all vaccines helps protect you and your baby against serious diseases such as the flu and whooping cough. Both the flu shot and whooping cough vaccine (Tdap) helps protect not only yourself but your baby as well.

– Flu shot: You can receive a flu shot before or during pregnancy.

– Whooping cough vaccine (Tdap): Women can receive a Tdap vaccine in the last 3 months of each pregnancy.

  • Avoid harmful substances – The consumption of harmful substances such as alcohol, tobacco, or any other drugs can negatively put a developing child at risk of birth defects.

 – Alcohol: When trying to get pregnant or during pregnancy, there is no known safe amount of alcohol consumption. This is why it is important to stop drinking when trying to get pregnant, and even more so during pregnancy.

– Tobacco: Not only does smoking cause cancer, heart disease, and other major health problems, it can also harm your developing baby’s health and cause birth defects. By quitting smoking, you will not only feel better but also be providing a healthy environment for your unborn child.

– Other drugs: The use of other drugs during pregnancy can cause health problems for a woman and her baby. A healthcare provider can help you with support services such as counseling and treatment.

If you have questions or concerns regarding your unborn child, know that we are here for you! Contact our office at 561-275-7100.

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