I’m happy to be partnering with March of Dimes and the CDC to help raise awareness of National Birth Defects Prevention Month. This post is brought to you by March of Dimes and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.
January 2020 is National Birth Defects Month, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)and March of Dimes are partnering again to raise awareness among women and their families about the actions they can take to be a healthy mom and have a healthy baby. This is an annual event that aims to generate awareness among women of childbearing age, families and health care providers about actions they can take to help prevent birth defects. Ideally, if you’re planning on getting pregnant in the near future it’s even better if you can be proactive about getting as healthy as you can before getting pregnant.
Just to give a little background, birth defects affect about 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year (120,000 babies) and are a major cause of infant death and lifelong disability. Birth defects are structural changes present at birth that can affect one or more part of the body (e.g., heart, brain, foot). They can occur at any stage of pregnancy, but most develop within the first three months (when a baby’s organs are forming). March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. They support research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy so that every baby can have the best possible start. Building on an 80-year legacy of impact and innovation, they empower every mom and family.
Of course, not all birth defects can be prevented, but there are definitely things you can do to help increase your chances of having a healthy, full-term pregnancy and a healthy baby.
During both of my pregnancies, I did a ton of research to figure out how to best take care of my own health as well as the health of my babies.
Here are a few tips for preventing birth defects:
1. Take a good prenatal vitamin
Make sure that you take a multivitamin-ideally before you even become pregnant. Take y0ur prenatal vitamins as directed before and throughout your pregnancy to keep you and your baby healthy. It’s also important to eat foods that are rich in folate-a natural form of folic acid.
Foods that contain folate:
- green leafy veggies
- black beans
- orange juice
- citrus fruits
- seeds and nuts
- fortified foods (breakfast cereals, bread, pasta)
2. Pre-pregnancy checkup
When you’re thinking about getting pregnant, schedule a pre-pregnancy checkup with your health care provider. Make sure you talk to them about any medications, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines as well as any vitamins/supplements. Ask your doctor about managing health conditions before becoming pregnant so you have a plan. It’s beneficial to reach a healthy weight before you get pregnant, so talk to your health care provider about how to reach the right weight for you. Focus on an active and healthy lifestyle as early as possible.
3. Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use harmful substances
Smoking substances like tobacco or marijuana during pregnancy can cause dangerous chemicals to damage the placenta and/or reach the baby’s bloodstream. Smoking cigarettes is a cause of certain birth defects, like cleft lip and palate. Opioid use in pregnancy can cause neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) and premature birth in babies. If you need help to quit, talk to your health care provider or contact:
- Smokefree.gov (1-800-QUIT-NOW)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 1.800.662.HELP (4357)