Birth defects are more common than you may think. In fact, about 1 in 33 babies born in the US has a birth defect, according to the CDC.
Not all birth defects can be prevented, but you can take steps that will increase the likelihood of giving birth to a healthy baby. These steps begin even before a woman becomes pregnant. If you are planning to become pregnant and have some concerns, here is your guide for reducing your risk for birth defects.
Getting Healthy Before Pregnancy
One of the best ways to prepare for pregnancy and the birth of a healthy child is to take folic acid every day. Specifically, a woman should take 400 mcg or micrograms of folic acid, also known as Vitamin B9, a month prior to becoming pregnant, and then throughout the pregnancy.
Folic acid helps prevent defects of the brain and spine. You can get the recommended dosage of this vitamin from fortified foods or from supplements, including several types of complex B vitamins. For those who prefer smoothies, there are many different recipes available that are packed full of folic acid.
Do Not Drink Alcohol During Your Pregnancy
This includes all kinds of alcohol, including beer and wine. Alcohol will pass from your bloodstream through the umbilical cord to the fetus. There is no safe time to drink during pregnancy, nor is there a safe amount of alcohol to consume. Even the smallest amount can harm your growing baby.
Drinking can result in a stillbirth, miscarriage, and all types of physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. These defects caused by alcohol are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
Just some of these disorders include the following:
- Smaller than normal size
- Small head
- Low body weight
- Poor memory
- Learning disabilities and low IQ
- Vision and hearing problems
- Issues with the heart, kidneys, and bones
Another unhealthy habit to break is smoking. If you smoke during pregnancy, it can lead to preterm birth, birth defects like a cleft palate, or even infant death. If you don’t smoke, avoid being around those who do smoke. It’s never too late to quit smoking.
Get Vaccinations and Prevent Infections
Make sure that you are up to date with all recommended vaccinations, especially the flu shot and a Tdap shot for whooping cough. Consult with your gynecologist at Birmingham Obstetrics & Gynecology about the best timing for any vaccinations to protect you and your baby from potential infection. A flu shot has been shown to protect mom and baby from the flu for up to six months after birth.
Become Best Friends with Birmingham Obstetrics & Gynecology
Schedule a visit with your provider before you become pregnant as they will be able to provide you with answers to all of the most common questions that many of our patients have regarding birth defects!
Discuss whether you are at a healthy weight, or if it may be best to drop a few pounds before pregnancy to reduce the risk of birth defects. Find out about what prescription or OTC medications you should and should not take during your pregnancy. Ask about precautions to take against West Nile Virus and other infections that can cause problems during pregnancy.
Find out about your health conditions and if you have any risk factors that would increase your risk of having a child with birth defects. Is your diabetes or blood pressure under control?
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding infections, alcohol, smoking, or any other drug that can cause harm to your growing baby should be your guide.
Contact Birmingham Obstetrics & Gynecology if you are planning to get pregnant and want to learn how to reduce your risk for birth defects.