Source: Centers for Disease Control
Not all birth defects can be prevented. But, there are things that a woman can do before and during pregnancy to increase her chance of having a healthy baby:
– Be sure to see your healthcare provider regularly and start prenatal care as soon as you think you might be pregnant.
– Get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day, starting at least one month before getting pregnant. Folic acid helps a baby’s brain and spine develop very early in the first month of pregnancy when a woman might not know she is pregnant. Because half of all pregnancies in the United States are not planned, all women who can become pregnant should take a vitamin with folic acid every day.
– Don’t drink alcohol, smoke, or use “street” drugs. The placenta, which attaches a baby to the mother, is not a strong barrier. When a mother uses cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs, or is exposed to infectious diseases, her baby is exposed also.
– Don’t stop or start taking any type of medication without first talking with a doctor. Talk to a healthcare provider about any medications you are taking or thinking about taking. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary or herbal supplements.
– 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.
Birth defects affect 1 in 33 babies every year and cause 1 in 5 infant deaths. For many babies born with a birth defect, there is no family history of the condition.