By Nurse Diane
There is nothing more thrilling for a couple trying to increase their family to learn that they are expecting. The first thought that comes to mind is the desire for their baby to be healthy, 10 fingers, and 10 toes. To most, the sex of the baby takes a back seat. Many newly expectant mothers visit their doctors; take prenatal vitamins, and research all the proper care necessary to produce a healthy child. More do not. According to the CDC, about one in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect. Not all birth defects can be prevented. But a woman can take steps to increase her own chance of having a baby with the best health possible.
Some causes of birth defects include:
Women who take certain drugs, smoke, or drink alcohol during pregnancy.
Women with certain medical conditions, such as uncontrolled diabetes or obesity before and during pregnancy.
Women who take certain medications that are known to cause birth defects, such as isotretinoin (a drug used to treat severe acne).
Women who have someone in their family with a birth defect. To learn more about your risk of having a baby with a birth defect, you can talk with a clinical geneticist or a genetic counselor.
Women over the age of 35 years.
Some ways to help prevent birth defects include:
Take 400 mcg of folic acid every day, starting at least one month before getting pregnant.
Don’t drink alcohol, smoke, or use “street” drugs.
Talk to a health care provider about taking any medications, including prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary or herbal supplements. Also talk to a doctor before stopping any medications that are needed to treat health conditions.
Learn how to prevent infections during pregnancy.
If possible, be sure any medical conditions are under control, before becoming pregnant. Some conditions that increase the risk for birth defects include diabetes and obesity.
This month is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. If you, or know someone who is pregnant, please encourage them to follow their Doctor's orders, have regular checkups, and do all they can to prevent any possible defect. Not all birth defects are preventable, but there are simple measures one can take to prevent many of them. For more information, visit Marchofdimes.com.