January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month and many organizations are working together to try and raise awareness about the steps that can be taken prior to and during a pregnancy in order to reduce the prevalence of birth defects. While some birth defects are spontaneous and not preventable, there are a number of risk factors that can be controlled in order to promote healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. Education as well as prevention can assist families as well as their doctors to help lower the statistic of one in twenty-eight babies being born with a major birth defect that will be diagnosed within their first year of life. Let’s take a look at some of the guidelines that can be followed to decrease the incidence of birth defects:
One of any number of infections can contribute to a baby’s development in utero. A mother who contracts the flu during her pregnancy can give birth to a child with complications and it can also increase her chance of going into preterm labor. Staying up to date with vaccinations is important as a way to decrease the chance of infection. Also, reducing travel and staying away from public places where people are commonly sick can help.
Good hygiene can reduce the risk of infection as well and this can include:
-Washing hands frequently and properly with soap and water
-Wash hands well before preparing or handling food
-Always wash your hands after handling raw meat, raw eggs, fish and unwashed produce
-Wash your hands after changing diapers or going to the bathroom
-Pets can carry disease and infection so be sure to wash your hands after handling them
-Do not share utensils, cups, etc. with other people in your home
Infection can be passed on from an animal or insect to a human. Wearing long pants and shirts with long sleeves can keep your skin from being exposed to bug bites. Not all bug sprays are safe for pregnant women so you can discuss this with your doctor and see if there is a safer product option that can increase your protection from infection.
In addition to infections causing birth defects, there are other risk factors that can put your baby in harm’s way. It is recommended that a woman who wishes to become pregnant in the near future stop smoking entirely in order to promote a healthy pregnancy. Smoking should never occur during a pregnancy as it can lead to a number of birth defects as well as premature birth. If quitting smoking is a concern, your doctor can recommend a number of products to you that will aid in your quitting smoking long term.
Birth defects range in their severity and each case can be very different in nature. Ultimately, you want to prevent birth defects in any way that you can and do everything in your power to have a healthy, nine month pregnancy. Proper nutrition, taking care of yourself and staying healthy can all greatly decrease your child’s risk of being born without a birth defect. You can speak with your trusted medical professional directly in order to find out what your risk factors are and what you can do right now to prevent birth defects and help others do the same.