5 Ways to Lower the Risk of Birth Defects
If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, it’s natural to want to do everything you can to help ensure your unborn baby is as healthy as he or she can be. While there is no way to completely prevent birth defects or other health issues, you can increase your chances of having a healthy baby by what you do before and during your pregnancy.
Here are 5 ways to help lower the risk of birth defects and have a healthier pregnancy:
- See a doctor. Planning to become pregnant or recently found out you are? Either way, it’s important to see a doctor regularly. Your physician will monitor your health—and that of your unborn baby if you are already pregnant. You’ll also get help managing chronic health conditions and advice about what to do (or avoid) to give your baby the best chance of being healthy.
- Follow healthy habits. Being overweight or obese may increase your risk of complications during pregnancy and may also increase the chance of birth defects. Strive to achieve a healthy weight before you become pregnant. Do this through healthy lifestyle habits, such as following a healthy eating plan and exercising regularly. Skip the fad diets that may rob your body of important nutrients even though weight may come off.
- Take folic acid. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all women of child-bearing age take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. This should be done on a regular basis, not just once you know you’re pregnant, since birth defects often occur in a baby’s brain and spine before a woman even knows she’s pregnant.
- Avoid harmful substances. Drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes or vaping, and using marijuana or other drugs may cause health issues during pregnancy, including potential birth defects, low birth weight or preterm birth. If you’re planning on becoming pregnant, the best time to stop using any harmful substances is before you become pregnant.
- Get vaccinated. It is recommended that women be up to date on all recommended vaccines before becoming pregnant. Additionally, the CDC recommends that pregnant women get two vaccines during pregnancy—the flu and Tdap vaccines. They also recommend the COVID-19 vaccine (and booster when appropriate) to anyone who is pregnant or plans to become pregnant. It is best to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about vaccinations with your doctor.
There is no one thing that will guarantee a healthy pregnancy, but taking these steps can help give you and your baby a stronger start!
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