January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month!
A birth defect is defined as a problem that happens while a baby is developing in the mother’s body. Most birth defects happen during the first 3 months of pregnancy.
One out of every 33 babies in the United States is born with a birth defect.
Here are some important tips to keep in mind, according to March of Dimes – a nonprofit organization that works to improve the health of mothers and babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.
- Take folic acid before and during early pregnancy. This can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (also called NTDs) in babies. Folic acid is a B vitamin that cells in the body need for normal growth and development.
- Get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup before pregnancy to ensure good health. A health care provider will make sure vaccinations are up to date and ensure any medicines being taken are safe during pregnancy. Being exposed to certain medicines or infections in the womb can sometimes cause birth defects in a baby.
- Don’t drink alcohol during pregnancy. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy makes babies more likely to have premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), birth defects and a group of conditions called fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
- Avoid common infections. Wash hands often, especially after using the bathroom, sneezing or coughing, changing a diaper or preparing food. Avoid eating raw or undercooked food, including lunch meats. Cook meat, chicken and fish until done. Wash food before you cook or eat it. Don’t touch cat deces or change a cat’s litter box to avoid toxoplasmosis.
- Don’t travel to a Zika-affected area, unless it’s absolutely necessary.Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect called microcephaly and other problems. If travel to a Zika-affected area is necessary, rigorously avoid mosquito bites. If your male or female sex partner is infected with Zika, abstain from sex or wear protection.