January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. Not all birth defects can be prevented, but by making healthy choices, moms can help ensure better health outcomes for their babies.
Many families hear about the importance of folic acid. Folic acid is a B vitamin that can help prevent certain birth defects affecting the brain and spine such as anencephaly and spina bifida. Pregnant women should get at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, which can come from fortified foods or supplements, or a combination of the two, in addition to a varied diet rich in folate. These foods include leafy green vegetables, beans, peas, and nuts, among other foods.
Pregnant mothers should avoid using drugs and alcohol during pregnancy. Certain drugs can increase the chance of babies being born preterm and can also increase the chance that a baby is born with a birth defect. Alcohol use can increase the risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). No amount of drugs or alcohol have been deemed safe during pregnancy, so the safest and best option is to avoid them completely.
Infection prevention is very important in preventing birth defects. Pregnant moms should avoid contact with people who have infections. They should always wash their hands prior to eating or preparing food or after handling any items that could cause illness or infection. They should also make sure that any meat they consume is fully cooked.
Frequent follow-up with a healthcare provider is another important way for moms to ensure a healthy outcome for their baby. Seeing an OBGYN regularly can help help moms and their families know how the fetus is developing and if there are any health concerns. Of course, moms should always express any issues to their healthcare provider.