January is National Birth Defects Prevention month. Birth defects are common, affecting one in every 33 babies born in the United States. Lake Regional encourages all women who are pregnant or who hope to become pregnant to take five steps.
“These five steps are good for women and good for their babies,” said Mary Lou Gamm, R.N., BSN, RNC-OB, director of Lake Regional’s Women’s and Children’s Service Line. “Following these tips can help prevent birth defects.”
- Be sure to take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
Folic acid is very important because it can help prevent some major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine when taken before and during early pregnancy.
- Book a visit with your health care provider before stopping or starting any medicine.
There are often benefits to continuing treatment throughout pregnancy. Discussing a treatment plan before a pregnancy allows a woman and her health care provider to weigh the pros and cons of all options to keep mom and baby as healthy as possible.
- Stay up-to-date with all vaccines.
Having the right vaccinations at the right time during pregnancy can help keep a woman and her baby healthy. Talk to your doctor about which vaccinations you need.
- Before you get pregnant, try to reach a healthy weight.
Obesity increases the risk for several serious birth defects and other pregnancy complications.
- Boost your health by avoiding harmful substances during pregnancy, such as alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy, and exposure to alcohol can cause major birth defects. Smoking during pregnancy can cause dangerous chemicals to damage the placenta. These chemicals also may reach the baby’s bloodstream. The opioid addiction epidemic has led to a sharp increase in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), premature birth and drug withdrawal in developing babies.
“Not all birth defects can be prevented, but if a woman follows these five steps, she will increase her chance of having a healthy baby,” Gamm said. “We want every baby to have the best possible start.”
Prenatal education empowers women to make healthy choices for them and their babies. Lake Regional Family Birth Center offers prenatal care classes, prepared childbirth classes for first-time parents and breast-feeding support. To learn more, visit lakeregional.com/fbc.