The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a baby is born with a major birth defect every 4 ½ minutes in the United States.
It’s the leading cause of infant mortality in the first year of life, and babies with birth defects also have increased chances of long-term health issues and illnesses. That’s why we’re shining a light on this important issue by supporting National Birth Defects Prevention Month.
Whether you’re expecting or thinking of having children one day, here are some of the most important things you can do before and during pregnancy to help prevent birth defects.
Get Enough Folic Acid
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that pregnant women or those who are thinking of getting pregnant should consume 400 micrograms (mcg) of synthetic folic acid in addition to the folic acid found naturally in foods. Folic acid is found in foods like cooked beans, peas, peanuts, oranges, dark green vegetables, fortified cereals and more. Your doctor may recommend additional supplements as well.
Getting enough folic acid during pregnancy can reduce the chances of one type of serious birth defect by up to 70%, but it’s just one of the many vitamins and minerals you’ll want to make sure you’re getting enough of before and during pregnancy.
Avoid Smoking, Drinking, Drugs and Dangerous Activities
This may seem like a no-brainer, but women who smoke, drink or do illegal drugs during pregnancy put their children at high risk for serious birth defects. Avoiding hot tubs, saunas and X-rays during pregnancy are lesser-known points of emphasis for pregnant women, however. Learn more about additional pregnancy dangers in our Online Health Library.
Reach a Healthy Weight
Women with obesity before pregnancy are at a higher risk for complications during pregnancy. In addition, women with poorly managed diabetes also put themselves and their pregnancies at risk. If you’re overweight or obese, you should talk to your doctor about ways you can reach a healthy weight before you get pregnant.
Work with Your Health Care Provider
Your obstetrician will be able to guide you through your pregnancy. They will be able to help you with everything from determining which medicines and vaccines are safe to helping you set a healthy diet or supplement plan.
If you’re an expecting mother or plan on having kids one day, these are just some of the steps you can take to increase your chances of having a healthy baby. To learn more about the many topics surrounding pregnancy, be sure to check out our Pregnancy Resource Center in our Online Health Library.