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October 07, 2021

Five ways women can reduce the risk of birth defects

Women's Health Birth Defects

Content sponsored by IBC - Native (195x33)

Limited - Pregnant woman looking down at her belly Prostock-Studio/

If you’re expecting soon (or hoping to be), it’s natural to do everything you can to ensure your baby is as healthy as possible. Fortunately, there’s a lot of things that can be done before you even get pregnant to reduce the risk of birth defects and increase the likelihood of having a healthy baby. Here are five things you can start doing now.

1. Take your folic acid

Prenatal vitamins are typically packed with folic acid, a type of vitamin B. Folic acid that can help prevent major birth defects related to the spine and brain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that women of a reproductive age take 400 micrograms of folic acid each day because birth defects often occur in a baby’s spine and brain before a woman even knows she’s pregnant.

2. Steer clear of alcohol and tobacco

Alcohol passes through a pregnant person’s bloodstream and to a developing baby via the umbilical cord. The risks of drinking during pregnancy are significant and can lead to many developmental issues. The same is true of tobacco, which can lead to birth defects such as a cleft lip. Even a glass of wine is best to avoid until your baby is safely in your arms.

3. Maintain a healthy weight

A body mass index (BMI) over 30 can lead to complications during pregnancy and also puts a baby at risk for birth defects and other health issues. If you’re planning on starting a family soon, strive to reach a healthy weight before becoming pregnant. All expectant individuals will naturally gain weight, but working closely with your health care provider — especially if you have diabetes — is key to ensuring you are maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout your pregnancy.

4. Get vaccinated

A baby’s health can be impacted by your infection during pregnancy. That’s why it’s important to make certain that you protect yourself with all the recommended vaccines before you get pregnant. The MMR, flu, and chicken pox vaccines are particularly important as these diseases can lead to birth defects. If you haven’t had the Tdap vaccine, it’s recommended during pregnancy. Not only will these vaccines reduce the risk of birth defects; the vaccinations you receive while pregnant can also pass some protections on to your baby.

5. See your health care provider

Every appointment you have with your health care provider is important! Before you get pregnant, let your doctor know your plans and be sure to discuss any medications or health issues that could impact your pregnancy. Continued visits to the doctor can help reveal any potential issues and ensure you’re doing what’s best for the baby at every stage of your pregnancy.

It’s important to note that it’s possible for a child to still have birth defects even when all of the recommendations mentioned above are followed. This is just one of the many reasons it’s critically important to continue seeing your health care provider throughout your pregnancy. An obstetrician, commonly referred to as an OB/GYN, can help identify many potential challenges through ultrasounds, ensuring your baby will be born as healthy as possible when the big day arrives.

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