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5 Ways to Reduce the Risk of Birth Defects


By KJC Law Firm

Not all birth defects can be prevented but there are ways a woman can increase her chances of having a healthy baby. Managing health conditions as well as adopting healthy behaviors before and during pregnancy are essential to having a healthy baby. Remember that it is important to take good care of yourself and not only do what is best for you but also what is best for your baby!

Take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.

Folic acid is an important factor that can help prevent major birth defects of the baby’s spine and brain. These defects develop during early stages of pregnancy when the neural tube- which forms the spinal cord and brain early on- does not close entirely. Taking folic acid at least one month before becoming pregnant and continue during pregnancy.

In addition to eating foods with natural folate:

  • Eat fortified foods.
  • You can find folic acid in breakfast cereals and some breads.
  • Check the nutrient facts label and look for a food with “100%” next to folic acid.
  • Take a vitamin or multi-vitamin that has folic acid in it every day.
  • Many vitamins sold in the U.S. have the recommended amount of folic acid women need each day. Check the label to make sure it has 100% of the appropriate daily value (DV) of folic acid, which is 400 mcg.

Before you get pregnant, try to reach a healthy weight.

Obesity increases the risk for a baby to have serious birth defects and other pregnancy complications. If you are underweight, overweight, or have obesity, take with a health care provider about ways to reach and maintain a healthy weight before pregnancy. Adopt a lifestyle that focuses on healthy eating and regular physical activity.

Avoid harmful substances during pregnancy such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

  • Alcohol: There is no safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed during pregnancy or when trying to get pregnant. Alcohol can cause multiple problems for developing a baby throughout pregnancy. It is important to stop drinking alcohol when you start trying to get pregnant.
  • Tobacco: Smoking causes heart disease, cancer, and other major health problems. Smoking during pregnancy can harm the process of developing the baby and cause certain birth defects. Quitting smoking will help you feel better and provide a healthier environment for the baby.
  • Other drugs: Using drugs during pregnancy can cause serious health problems for women and developing babies. If you are pregnant or trying and can’t resist drugs, get help! A healthcare provider can help you with treatment, counseling, and other support services.

Book a visit with your healthcare provider before stopping or starting any medicine.

During pregnancy, many women need to take medicine to stay healthy during pregnancy. If you are planning to become pregnant, discuss appropriate and current medications with your doctor or a pharmacist. Creating a treatment plan for a health condition before pregnancy can help keep you and the baby develop in the most proper healthy way.

Become up to date with all vaccines, including the flu shot.

Vaccines help you and your developing baby against serious diseases. Get a flu shot and whooping cough vaccine (also known as Tdap) during each pregnancy to help protect yourself and your baby.

  • Flu: You can get the flu shot before or during each pregnancy
  • Whooping cough: You can get the whooping cough vaccine in the last three months of each pregnancy.

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