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January is Birth Defects Prevention Month

The Daily Record - 1/12/2020

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month. The goal of the National Birth Defects Prevention Network is preventing birth defects whenever possible.

Not all birth defects can be prevented, but steps can be taken prior to and during pregnancy to increase a woman’s chance of having a healthy baby. All pregnant women and those who may become pregnant should do the following.

First, plan ahead. Get as healthy as possible before becoming pregnant. Since about 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned all women of childbearing age should consider implementing the following recommendations.

Take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Consuming folic acid can prevent 50% to 70% of certain forms of serious brain and spinal birth defects. Folic acid is a B vitamin found in orange juice, vegetables, and fortified cereals and breads — to name just a few. Despite all enriched cereals and grain products in the U.S. being fortified with folic acid, only one-third of U.S. women of childbearing age consume the recommended daily requirement. To be sure you are getting enough the easiest way to get 400 mcg of folic acid is to take a daily multi-vitamin.

Avoid using alcohol and tobacco products — both before and during pregnancy. Alcohol consumption can affect the fetus even before you know you are pregnant. Alcohol use can affect brain development causing fetal alcohol effect and fetal alcohol syndrome. Both cause serious developmental disabilities. Tobacco product use has long been known to cause low birth weight. However, new research is finding apparent connections between tobacco use and birth defects of the face and mouth.

Be careful to avoid contact with harmful chemicals or fumes at work and home. Inhalation/?contact with certain chemicals and exposure to cat/?rodent feces are among items that can cause birth defects.

Watch your diet. Choose a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy and lean proteins.

Be physically active. Pregnancy is not an illness. Exercise is good for both you and the baby. Consult your doctor for a list of appropriate activities.

If you have a chronic medical condition, consult your doctor before getting pregnant. Follow you doctor’s instructions to get medical conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure under control.

Talk to your doctor about all medications you take – including over-the-counter medications. Let your doctor know of your family medical history. Especially let your doctor know if there has been a history of problems with birth and delivery.

Absolutely do not use illegal drugs of any type during pregnancy. Even a one-time use can cause fetal problems and exposure to meth fumes are a problem for both mother and fetus. These drugs also lead to premature birth and babies born addicted.

Certain vaccinations should be given prior to pregnancy. Which ones can vary from person to person due to her prior vaccination history. Talk to your doctor about what vaccinations you may need.

Not all birth defects are readily seen at birth. Some are not evident until the child is older when learning disabilities become apparent.

Some birth defects are genetic and cannot be avoided. However, many are due to maternal choices. Give your baby the best possible start in life. If possible, talk to your doctor before you become pregnant; otherwise do so as soon as you know you are pregnant.

Mrs. Theil is a child advocate in Wayne and Holmes counties. She can be contacted at BeverlyVT@aol.com.

CREDIT: BEVERLY THEIL LOCAL

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