Every four minutes, a baby is born with a major birth defect in the United States. Babies born with birth defects have a greater chance of illness and long term disability than babies without birth defects. Birth defects are a leading cause of death among infants, accounting for about 20% of mortality in the first year of life.
To raise awareness about the impact of birth defects and the steps that need to be taken to prevent them, January is National Birth Defect Prevention month. Although every birth defect cannot be prevented, there are things a woman can do to prepare for a healthy pregnancy, such as:
- Maintain a healthy diet by eating well balanced and nutritional meals. Consult with your doctor about taking a multivitamin to gain more nutrients for mother and baby.
- Avoid consuming harmful toxins that lead to birth defects, including alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, and caffeine.
- Obtain genetic counseling and birth defect screening, particularly if you have any family history of birth defects.
- Stay active and get fit. The babies of overweight women have an increased risk of birth defects.
- Treating long-term conditions such as diabetes are the keys to a healthy lifestyle before and during pregnancy.
- Men are also encouraged to make lifestyle changes when planning ahead for pregnancy with their partner. As some birth defects are genetic, it is important that men participate fully in any family medical history research that takes place.
Steady communication with your doctor is very important to assist with planning ahead. All medications should be discussed with a doctor prior to being taken, including prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, and dietary and herbal supplements.
If you are an expectant mother, and you live in Worcester, Wicomico, or Somerset County, Maryland, please contact Chesapeake Health Care’s Eastern Shore OB/GYN Center at 410-651-1000 to make an appointment.