January is observed as Birth Defects Prevention Awareness Month. Birth defects, as defined by the CDC, are, “…common, costly, and critical conditions that affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year.” It’s estimated that 120,000 babies are born with defects every year, just in the U.S. alone. Many of these birth defects could be prevented with a few simple actions by the mother of the infant, making the awareness of these preventions very important.
Among the long list of birth defects, some of the most common are congenital heart defect, cleft lip, left palate, and spina bifida. All of these can turn serious and cause for a baby’s and their parents’ lives to be greatly altered. However, according to the organization, March of Dimes, there are several ways a person can help avoid or stop birth defects in their baby. Here are some tips they list:
- Get a prenatal check-up: This will make sure you are healthy and ready to have a baby and it will also determine if the medications you are taking won’t affect the pregnancy in any way.
- Take folic acid before and during the early stages of pregnancy: Doing this will help avoid defects in the spine and brain. Before pregnancy, take a supplement with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day and then, during pregnancy, take a prenatal vitamin with 600 micrograms of folic acid in it every day.
- Check that your vaccinations are up to date: Some doctors recommend getting the flu shot and whooping cough booster before pregnancy, though check with your doctor before taking any vaccinations.
- Reach or maintain a healthy weight before getting pregnant: Talk to your health provider about a healthy weight for you, and remember to eat healthily and do something active every day.
- Never smoke, drink alcohol, or do any harmful drugs while pregnant: These can seriously affect the baby and cause sometimes fatal defects.
All of these tips can help prevent a number of birth defects, and if you would like to learn more, visit the March of Dimes article here.
March of Dimes. (2018). January is Birth Defects Prevention Month. Retrieved from: https://www.marchofdimes.org/research/january-is-birth-defects-prevention-month.aspx.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). What are Birth Defects?. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/facts.html.