Approximately 150,000 children are born every year in the United States affected by one or more birth defects. Although the cause of over 60% of birth defects are not known, there are things that you can do to help ensure optimal health for your baby.
Awareness and education are the first steps to preventing birth defects. The immediate step following awareness and education is taking action. There are a number of things you can do to increase the probability of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Some are more challenging than other because they may require that you break bad habits, but it is worth your effort.
Here are a variety of tips you can use to prevent birth defects as you contemplate starting or adding to your family:
- The first and foremost tip is maintaining preconception health; eating well balanced and nutritional meals, and taking a multivitamin daily that includes the recommended 400 mcg of folic acid.
- If you are sexually active and pregnancy is a possibility, make sure you take a multivitamin daily, which includes the recommended 400 mcg
- Avoid all activities that could potentially lead to birth defects, including alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, and caffeine.
- Seek an annual gynecological and wellness exam.
- Obtain genetic counseling and birth defect screening, particularly if you have any family history of birth defects or if you are 35 years and older.
If family or friends are considering conceiving, and are concerned about the possibility of birth defects, encourage them to get screened. You can send them the link to our website for more information. One email to your family and friends may have a domino effect in creating awareness of birth defect prevention options. It is free and could easily prompt someone considering parenthood to have a wellness exam or seek genetic counseling.
On a separate note, it is important to point out that Kentucky is one of the unhealthiest states in our nation; but, a few healthy lifestyle choices could change this. First, eating normally proportioned helpings of nutritious foods including at least five fruits and vegetables a day can lower weight and reduce heart disease and diabetes. Second, exercising about 30 minutes per day can lower blood pressure. Third, avoiding the use of tobacco products can reduce several types of cancer. Finally, making sure you get your needed preventive screenings can detect diseases early and greatly increase your chances for a positive health outcomes, while receiving your recommended vaccinations can prevent acquiring disease in the first place.
Source: americanpregnancy.org and marchofdimes.org