Four Ways to Prevent Birth Defects
When dreaming about having a baby, we yearn for a healthy, full-term infant. While some birth defects cannot be prevented, others can. Some things can be done to prepare the body for a healthy pregnancy. The challenge, however, is making sure women know precisely how and when they should get their body ready for having a baby.
The CDC developed a Commit to Healthy Choices to Prevent Birth Defects campaign that utilizes the acronym PACT to hone in on exactly what women should do to prepare for pregnancy. We’ve broken down these four letters to:
Prepare – Healthy moms make healthy babies. While we recognize that not all birth defects can be prevented, there is so much that women can do to get their bodies ready for developing a fetus. Folic acid is a B-vitamin that can help prevent many major birth defects. Women should begin taking this vitamin one month before they start trying to conceive. Plus for women: great hair and nails! Women should also schedule a prenatal exam with their doctor to ensure they’re in optimal health.
Avoid – Avoid anything considered to be harmful to a developing fetus. This includes avoiding smoking, drinking alcohol, and drugs, as well as infections and overheating.
Smoking can cause low birth weight and certain birth defects such as cleft lip and cleft palate. Alcohol is passed to the fetus through the umbilical cord. All types of alcohol are equally dangerous and can result in physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. Women who use drugs during pregnancy can have babies who are born preterm, with low birth weight or have birth defects. If at all possible, quit doing all of the above before trying to conceive.
To prevent overheating, avoid extreme temperatures, and address fevers promptly when sick. Overheating increases a woman’s risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect.
Choose (Health) – Healthy moms make healthy babies. Women must do everything they can to optimize their health before and during pregnancy. According to the CDC, this includes keeping diabetes in control and maintaining a healthy weight. Diabetes can lead to complications during pregnancy, and a BMI of 30 or higher can result in severe birth defects. Before trying to conceive, women should seek medical assistance for help in getting to a healthy weight.
Talk – Women should talk to their healthcare provider before trying to conceive about any medications they are taking and the risk they may pose on a developing fetus. Certain medications carry increased risk to the fetus, and they must be stopped well in advance of conception. Women should also discuss vaccinations with their doctors. Many vaccines are recommended during pregnancy to help protect the baby once it is born. Vaccines also protect the mom against certain illnesses, such as the flu. Some vaccines also protect the fetus against birth defects.
The last tip is to schedule a prenatal appointment with a pediatric nurse at some point during pregnancy. This counseling session provides essential information on lifestyle and nutrition for pregnant moms. This is a free service available at Rainbow Pediatrics.