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5 Things Pregnant Women Need To Do To Reduce The Risk Of Birth Defects In Their BabiesThese also apply for women who are planning on getting pregnant in the future.by Kate Borbon .
All pregnant women want their unborn babies to grow healthily and be born in sound condition. Unfortunately, it is impossible to guarantee that your baby will not have a birth defect; Harvard Health says that while some defects can be detected via ultrasounds, others may not be detected until after the baby is born. Still, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do what you can to ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby.
How to reduce your risk of birth defects
Take folic acid
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), folic acid is vital because it helps prevent major defects in a baby’s brain and spine that develop early during pregnancy when the neural tube (which forms the brain and the spinal cord) doesn’t close properly. Examples of these defects are spina bifida and anencephaly.
You need 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day during pregnancy and also for at least a month before getting pregnant, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You can get your daily recommended intake of folic acid from fortified foods and supplements and a folate-rich diet.ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
Harvard Health says that women who plan on getting pregnant should stay up to date with their vaccinations since certain vaccine-preventable diseases can lead to birth defects. For example, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), rubella (German measles) can cause miscarriage or deafness, blindness, heart defects, or intellectual disability in newborns.
The two vaccines recommended for all pregnant women, according to the ACOG’s guidelines, include the flu vaccine and the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccine. It’s always better to consult your doctor before getting vaccinated. (Click here to learn more about the immunization guidelines for pregnant women.)
Avoid smoking and drinking
The CDC says that no amount of alcohol is known to be safe during pregnancy or when trying to get pregnant, so it’s better to abstain from drinking altogether. Drinking alcohol when you’re pregnant can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth and physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. Experts also advise quitting smoking before smoking because doing so during pregnancy can cause preterm birth, infant death, and birth defects such as cleft lip or palate.ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
Reach a healthy weight
If you are underweight, overweight, or have obesity and are planning on getting pregnant, the AAP recommends talking with your doctor about how you can reach and maintain a healthy weight. Obesity can increase the risk for serious birth defects, like heart problems and neural tube defects, and pregnancy complications like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, says the ACOG.
Talk to your doctor
According to the CDC, you should see your doctor if you plan on getting pregnant and start prenatal care as soon as you think you are pregnant. Throughout your pregnancy, make sure to attend all your appointments. “If you are trying to have a baby or are just thinking about it, it is not too early to start getting ready for pregnancy.”
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