January was Birth Defects Prevention Month, but prevention is a year-round endeavor for our partner, March of Dimes, and expectant women everywhere.
Birth defects are defined as health conditions that are present at the time of birth, and about 120,000 babies are born each year with a birth defect.
Most birth defects cannot be prevented, and doctors often work hard to help women understand that so many causes of defects are not known. Both RMHP and March of Dimes know that moms everywhere work hard to protect their babes as they develop in the womb. To help them on this quest, there are several basic steps that women can take before and during their pregnancy to minimize risk and eliminate known defect risks.
No matter what, if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, speak with your OB-GYN. They will help evaluate your specific situation, health, medications and risk factors.
- Start taking folic acid at least a month before you plan on becoming pregnant. A woman’s body needs to build up a store of folic acid for the pregnancy. This helps reduce the risk of serious brain, spinal, and heart defects.
- Get a pre-pregnancy check up. Your doctor will also review any medications you are on to see if they pose a serious risk to the baby.
- Speak with your doctor or nurses about medications. For example, aspirin and ibuprofen can be dangerous for the baby, while acetaminophen is considered much safer. Be sure to ask about ALL medications, whether over the counter medications or prescription.
- Get regular checkups. These make sure the woman’s systems are working well, ensure appropriate vaccination to protect the baby, identify any possible complications early, and ensure the woman gets good education and guidance throughout the pregnancy.
- If you drink tea, ask about it. Some herbal teas are actually very dangerous for a developing baby. Be sure to ask.
- Get regular exercise, as possible. Research has shown that healthy activity levels in mom are very good for baby. Your doctor can suggest ideas based on your personal fitness level.
- Avoid alcohol. There is a lot of conflicting information about this, but no level of alcohol during pregnancy has shown to be absolutely safe for the baby.
- Avoid cigarettes and drugs. Both can be very dangerous for the baby’s development. It’s never too late to quit or get help.
Pregnancy is a time of great excitement as well as worry. While most birth defects are not preventable, taking these steps can help give you and your baby a healthy start.
We’re proud to partner with March of Dimes and support their ongoing work for stronger, healthier babies.
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