National Birth Defect Prevention Month
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According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in every 33 infants that are born in the United States is born with some kind of birth defect. We know that not all birth defects can be prevented, however, you can minimize the risk of birth defects by keeping yourself healthy before and during your pregnancy. National Birth Defect Prevention Month is celebrated each year during the month of January. Each year there is a different theme that is the focus of the month. The theme for this year is “Best for You, Best for Baby”. What is best for you, is also typically what is best for your baby. You can increase the chances of having a healthy baby by managing your health before and during your pregnancy.
Common Tips to Prevent Birth Defects from the CDC
- Maintain a healthy weight before pregnancy. Obesity can cause many different health risks for you as well as the baby. Obesity increases the risk of pregnancy complications during birth as well as many serious birth defects for the baby. Some ways to achieve this would be to maintain a healthy diet and exercise. Talk with your healthcare provider about what is best for you and your pregnancy.
- Take at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Folic acid is vital to ensure the proper growth and development of the baby. Folic acid can prevent birth defects in the baby’s brain and spine. You can find folic acid in fortified food which could be in some bread, cereal, and flour. There are also many vitamins that contain folic acid that can be taken to reach the required amount that is needed.
- Make sure you are up to date on your shots. Vaccines help to protect you and your baby from developing many serious diseases. It is important to keep your baby free from infection or disease.
- Avoid substances that could be harmful to your baby. Some common substances that could affect the way your baby is developing could be certain medications, alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. For many of these substances, there is no recommended safe amount to take. It is very important to avoid these. For any medications that you are taking, it is important to consult your doctor about what is safe to take during pregnancy.
- When you learn you are pregnant, seek out support from your healthcare provider. They can help you find healthy ways to protect your baby from birth defects. Although not everything can be prevented, being healthy is a good way to help minimize the risk of birth defects. There can be a lot of excitement when finding out that you are pregnant, however, pregnancy can also be a stressful time. Staying healthy before and during your pregnancy can be a simple way to help relieve some of that stress. Reducing the risk of birth defects is something that is important to do when possible.
Everyone should be aware of the importance of staying healthy before and during pregnancy. Take some time during the month of January to spread the word. Educate yourself about birth defects and share what you learned with those around you. Although January is National Birth Defect Prevention Month, any month is a good time to learn about birth defects and supporting a healthy pregnancy.
Author: Samantha Potocnik
Samantha is an intern at EVOLVE and a student at the University of Wisconsin River Falls.