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9 Ways to Help Prevent Birth Defects

doctor and patient looking at sonogram The possibility your child could be born with a birth defect will always exist. You can, however, take precautions to increase your odds of having a healthy baby. By eating certain vitamins and avoiding harmful substances, if women tweak their daily routines in just a few ways, it just might save their child from a devastating diagnosis.

Most birth defects develop very early in pregnancy, sometimes before a woman knows she is pregnant. There are even measures women can take before pregnancy that can help prepare for a healthy birth.

Expecting mothers and anyone thinking about having a child should read over the following guidelines on how to prevent birth defects from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC’s suggestions will help you live a healthier life regardless of whether you’re pregnant, and could keep a birth defect from affecting your baby.

Don’t Drink Alcohol

When you drink, so does your baby. Every drop of booze that passes through a woman’s bloodstream also moves through the baby’s umbilical cord. Drinking while pregnant can lead to miscarriages, stillbirths and a long list of physical, behavioral and intellectual disabilities that could plague your child for his or her entire life.

These birth defects are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Some data on FASDs and alcohol-related birth defects from the CDC include:

– Some estimates have FASDs in the United States as prevalent as 20 to 50 out of 1,000 school children, or 2 to 5 percent of the population
– The lifetime cost for a child with FASD is $2 million
– FAS costs the United States $4 billion per year
– 7.6 percent of pregnant women have at least one drink in 30 days
– Pregnant women ages 35 to 44 drink most

If you don’t drink, you greatly reduce the chances of a healthy baby. Read more about FASDs on our website here.

Don’t Smoke or Use Drugs

The fact that smoking causes cancer and heart disease is well known. The fact of smoking during pregnancy can cause premature birth, birth defects like cleft palate, and even death is less discussed. Simply being around tobacco smoke places a mother and her unborn child at serious risk.

woman smoking cigaretteWomen who are pregnant should quit smoking immediately, and those who are thinking about having a child should quit smoking as soon as they can. It’s never too late to quit smoking. For help, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). Not smoking after birth is important as well. Babies are exposed to cigarette smoke are at higher risk for health problems, including having weaker lungs.

Any use of street drugs can seriously harm an unborn baby, not just his or her mother. Low birth weight, premature birth and a wide range of birth defects are associated with a mother’s drug use.

Prevent Infections

Infections that women develop during pregnancy can harm an unborn child. Taking the following steps to reduce your chance of an infection will keep you healthier and increase the odds that your baby will not develop a birth defect:

– Wash your hands with soap and water after: using the bathroom, touching raw meat or vegetables, gardening or handling soil, handling pets, being around others who are sick, changing diapers, playing with children
– Don’t share your plates or silverware with young children
– Cook meats until they are well done
– Avoid unpasteurized milk and foods made from it
– Don’t handle dirty cat litter
– Get tested for sexually transmitted diseases
– Avoid others with infections
– Ask your doctor about B strep, a type of bacteria 1 in 4 women carry

Take 400 Micrograms of Folic Acid Every Day

The benefits of folic acid for women have been well documented. Folic acid is a B vitamin that our body uses to make new cells. Folic acid helps create cells for new skin, hair and nails.

Folic acid has been proven to help prevent major birth defects in a baby’s brain and spine. Specifically, folic acid helps prevent anencephaly – a fatal birth defect where babies are born without parts of the brain and skull – and spina bifida, a serious spine defect. It’s been reported that proper folic acid intake can reduce the risks of spina bifida by 35 percent.

Some statistics on folic acid intake from the CDC:

– A staggering 50 to 70 percent of anencephaly and spina bifida diagnoses could have been prevented if women took 400 mcg of folic acid daily
– Latin and Hispanic women are at the highest risk for anencephaly and spina bifida
– 81 percent of women in childbearing age are aware of folic acid, though only 40 percent take it daily
– Forgetting to take folic acid was the most common reason for not taking it
– Medical care for a child born with spina bifida is about $560,000 for the child’s lifetime

Women should start taking folic acid at least one month before they become pregnant, according to the CDC. Most multivitamins contain enough folic acid for an expecting mother, however, always check the label to be sure your multivitamin has the 100 percent daily intake of 400 mcg. Certain breakfast cereals have enough folic acid to suffice. Check out the CDC’s list of fortified cereals here.

Talk to a Health Care Provider About Medications

Certain medications can cause serious birth defects. Women who are pregnant should not stop taking all medications, but rather discuss with their doctor to see what’s safe. This should not be limited to prescription medications and should include over-the-counter drugs and any herbal or dietary aides.

Any medication during pregnancy can be risky. Less than 10 percent of medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration since 1980 have enough information to determine the real risk of a birth defect, according to the CDC . Contact your doctor even before you are pregnant to find out what is and is not safe for you and your baby.

Talk to Your Doctor About Vaccinations

The majority of vaccinations are not only safe, but recommended during pregnancy. Some can even prevent certain infections in expecting mothers.

Pregnant women are also at greater risk of the flu, so getting a flu shot can often be in the best interest of a mother and her child. Again, talk with your doctor about what the best options are for you.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Obese women are at higher risk for birth defects and complications during pregnancy. Women who are overweight should consult with a health care professional before they become pregnant about ways to lose weight and stay fit.

Staying healthy and at an optimum weight can be difficult during pregnancy. For help, check out the CDC’s tips on maintaining a healthy weight here.

Keep Diabetes Under Control

If an expecting mother does not control her diabetes properly, it can increase chances of birth defects and other serious health problem for the baby, in addition to putting the mother at serious health risk as well.

Check in With A Doctor Regularly

Pregnant women and those planning on having a child should frequently see a doctor. There is no such thing as checking in with your doctor too often. The health of you and your unborn child is at stake. Make all the necessary prenatal appointments, get to them on time, listen to your doctor’s advice and never be afraid or embarrassed to ask questions.

Who Protect Your Rights?

We want you and your baby to have the best chance at having a healthy birth and a long, happy life together, but we know certain birth defects are unavoidable even if you follow proper prevention protocol. Sometimes they are the result of someone else’s negligence. That’s why we are here to help.

If your child was born with a birth defect and someone else was at fault, you may be entitled to significant compensation. A settlement won’t change what happened, but can give you the help you need.

Contact our attorneys today for a free consultation. We’ll be waiting to help.


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