Less than 1% of babies born each year are born with birth defects. Yet expectant moms still worry all through their pregnancy. According to March of Dimes, 60% of the causes of birth defects are unknown, but exercising caution and taking proper steps to ensure a healthy pregnancy can reduce the risk of problems during and after pregnancy.
8 Practical Tips to Avoiding Birth Defects
1. Stay away from smoking and alcohol – while this is a given, I am constantly surprised by the number of pregnant women I see smoking, or walking together with a smoker. Smoking and alcohol can increase your chances of having a baby with Down’s Syndrome, heart defects, and fetal alcohol syndrome.
2. Get vaccinated – certain diseases during pregnancy, such as rubella, can cause birth defects like cerebral palsy. Make sure you’re up-to-date on your vaccinations and keep clean. Wash your hands before eating and after using the bathroom, and stay away from anyone sick.
3. Folic acid – getting enough folic acid before and during pregnancy can prevent stillbirths, infant death, and diseases such as spina bifida. You should be taking folic acid throughout your reproductive years, because the negative effects of lacking folic acid can occur very early on in pregnancy.
4. Avoid taking medications – taking certain medications during pregnancy can cause serious heart defects. Check with your physician before taking any medication.
5. Exercise – exercising regularly will keep you in shape and healthier, making your body a healthy environment for carrying a baby.
6. Visit your doctor – keep your monthly appointments and discuss all concerns with your doctor.
7. Get screened – if you are 35 years or older, or have a history of birth defects in your family, make sure to get screened and talk to your doctor regularly. Knowledge is the best prevention.
8. Harmful exposures – stay away from harmful exposures, such as paint fumes, leads, gasoline, animal feces, fumes from household chemicals, etc.
Make sure to ask questions and talk to your doctor with any concerns you have.