9 Things Women Can Do To Help Prevent Birth Defects
This post is sponsored by the Motherhood on behalf of the March of Dimes and CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities to raise awareness about this important issue.
Many people don’t know this entire story, but when my youngest daughter was born, we had a less than peaceful experience during her first few weeks of life. She was born just a few weeks early after a few difficulties in the later months of my pregnancy. When she was born, the initial checks were fine, but I will never forget a conversation I had with my lactation nurse, where she revealed that she suspected an issue with the shape of my daughter’s throat. Specifically, I was told that her Uvula was located too far back in her throat, which characteristically would cause future speech problems and other issues with her development. Although I’d been advised differently by her Pediatrician, I had been haunted by that possible diagnosis for years. Like…years! I worried about her not starting to speak as early as my oldest. I worried about her mispronouncing the word “hot” and saying “ha.” I worried about her not being able to swallow certain foods. I worried about so many things and sought so much advice and studied her every move until the moment I could actually believe that my very eloquent and hearty eating daughter was 100% alright.
See, when most of us have a baby, it’s a very joyous time. We check for 10 fingers and 10 toes, reflexes, etc.; reveling at the fact that they are healthy and seemingly perfect babies. If you are blessed enough to have experienced just that, it only makes it that much harder to imagine the fact that there are many parents out there who do not get to have that same experience. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States! That’s a harrowing statistic! Some infections before and during pregnancy can hurt you and your baby, as they can cause birth defects and lifelong disabilities, such as hearing loss or learning problem. In addition to being extremely difficult to deal with for both children and parents, birth defects are a leading cause of infant mortality in this country.
January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month
January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month and in honor of this occasion, March of Dimes has offered some important birth defect prevention tips for pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant. If you are not familiar with March of Dimes, it is the national leader for the health of moms and babies. In addition to research, they provide educational resources and support to families and communities.
Here are 9 things women can do to help prevent birth defects:
- Even before you are pregnant, start taking a daily multivitamin containing the B vitamin folic acid (even if you’re not currently trying to get pregnant). Taking a daily multivitamin containing folic acid helps prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine.
- Eat foods that contain folate, the natural form of folic acid, including lentils, green leafy vegetables, black beans, and orange juice. In addition, some foods are fortified with folic acid, including enriched grain products such as bread, cereal, and pasta; and corn masa products such as tortilla chips and tacos.
- See a doctor for a preconception check up to make sure you are healthy, check that your vaccinations are up to date and make sure any medicines that you take are safe to keep taking during pregnancy.
- Don’t eat raw or undercooked meat, raw or runny eggs, unpasteurized (raw) juice or dairy products, raw sprouts — or products made with them.
- Handle foods safely. Be sure to wash all knives, utensils, cutting boards, and dishes used to prepare raw meat, fish or poultry before they come into contact with other foods.
- Do not put a young child’s food, utensils, drinking cups, or pacifiers in your mouth.
- Don’t touch cat poop or change a cat’s litter box to protect you from toxoplasmosis.
- Don’t drink alcohol during pregnancy. You hear so many conflicting reports here, but according to many doctors, drinking alcohol during pregnancy makes your baby more likely to have premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), birth defects and a group of conditions called fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (also called FASDs).
- Don’t travel to a Zika-affected area, unless it’s absolutely necessary. Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect called microcephaly and other problems. If you do travel to a Zika-affected areas, be sure to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
If you are pregnant, think you may become pregnant some day, or know someone who is either, please be sure to take note to these tips to help prevent birth defects. Learn more about how to reduce your risk of getting an infection during pregnancy and ways to protect yourself and your baby at www.MarchOfDimes.org/protect.