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Prevention of Birth Defects

Research is ongoing to find and treat the causes of many birth defects. Immunizations of the mother against certain infections, such as rubella, can prevent birth defects caused by that infection. Much has been learned about the dangerous effects of alcohol on the developing baby and women are advised to not drink alcohol during pregnancy. In recent years, a strong link has been discovered between the lack of the B-vitamin folic acid and the development of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Taking a vitamin containing sufficient folic acid before conception and in early pregnancy can often help prevent many serious birth defects.

Not all birth defects can be prevented. But, there are things that a woman can do before and during pregnancy to increase her chance of having a healthy baby:

  • Be sure to see your healthcare provider regularly and start prenatal care as soon as you think you might be pregnant.
  • Get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day, starting at least one month before getting pregnant.
  • Don’t drink alcohol, smoke, or use “street” drugs.
  • Talk to a healthcare provider about any medications you are taking or thinking about taking. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary or herbal supplements. Don’t stop or start taking any type of medication without first talking with a doctor.
  • Learn how to prevent infections during pregnancy.
  • If possible, be sure any medical conditions are under control, before becoming pregnant. Some conditions that increase the risk for birth defects include diabetes and obesity.

Make a plan for Prevention. Commit to Healthy Choices to Help Prevent Birth Defects

We know that not all birth defects can be prevented. But, we also know that women can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by managing health conditions and adopting healthy behaviors before becoming pregnant. Make an agreement, a commitment to yourself, to get healthy before and during pregnancy by actively trying to plan ahead, avoid harmful substances, choose a healthy lifestyle, and talk with your healthcare provider.

Plan ahead.

  • Get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
    Folic acid is a B vitamin. If a woman has enough folic acid in her body at least one month before and during pregnancy, it can help prevent major birth defects of the developing brain and spine (anencephaly and spina bifida). Women can get folic acid from fortified foods or supplements, or a combination of the two, in addition to a varied diet rich in folate.
  • See a healthcare professional regularly.
    A woman should be sure to see her doctor when planning a pregnancy and start prenatal care as soon as she thinks that she is pregnant. It is important to see the doctor regularly throughout pregnancy, so a woman should keep all her prenatal care appointments. If you are trying to have a baby or are just thinking about it, it is not too early to start getting ready for pregnancy. Use these checklists to help you write down your goals, whether you are planning a pregnancy or trying to get and stay healthy overall.

Avoid harmful substances

  • Avoid alcohol at any time during pregnancy
    Alcohol in a woman’s bloodstream passes to the developing baby through the umbilical cord. There is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant. There is also no safe time during pregnancy to drink. All types of alcohol are equally harmful, including wine and beer. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. These disabilities in the child, which occur because the mother drank alcohol during the pregnancy, are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). The best advice for women is to stop drinking alcohol when trying to get pregnant.
  • Avoid smoking cigarettes
    The dangers of smoking during pregnancy include preterm birth, certain birth defects (cleft lip or cleft palate), and infant death. Even being around tobacco smoke puts a woman and her pregnancy at risk for problems. Quitting smoking before getting pregnant is best. For a woman who is already pregnant, quitting as early as possible can still help protect against some health problems for the baby, such as low birth weight. It’s never too late to quit smoking.
  • Avoid marijuana and other “street drugs”
    A woman who uses marijuana or other “street” drugs during pregnancy can have a baby who is born preterm, of low birth weight, or has other health problems, such as birth defects. Marijuana is the illicit drug most commonly used during pregnancy. Since we know of no safe level of marijuana use during pregnancy, women who are pregnant, or considering becoming pregnant, should not use marijuana, even in states where marijuana is legal. Women using marijuana for medical reasons should speak with their doctor about an alternative therapy with pregnancy-specific safety data.
  • Prevent infections
    Some infections that a woman can get during pregnancy can be harmful to the developing baby and can even cause birth defects. Some easy steps to prevent infections include frequent hand-washing, cooking meat until its well done, and staying away from people who have an infection.

Choose a healthy lifestyle

  • Keep diabetes under control
    Poor control of diabetes during pregnancy increases the chances for birth defects and other problems for the pregnancy. It can also cause serious complications for the woman. Proper healthcare before and during pregnancy can help prevent birth defects and other poor outcomes.
  • Strive to reach and maintain a healthy weight
    A woman who is obese (a body mass index [BMI] of 30 or higher) before pregnancy is at a higher risk for complications during pregnancy. Obesity also increases a pregnant woman’s risk of several serious birth defects. Even if a woman is not actively planning a pregnancy, getting healthy can help boost her health and her mood. If a woman is overweight or obese, she should talk with her doctor about ways to reach a healthy weight before she gets pregnant.

Talk with your healthcare provider

  • Talk to a healthcare provider about taking any medications
    We know that certain medications can cause serious birth defects if they are taken during pregnancy. For many medications taken by pregnant women, the safety has been difficult to determine. Despite the limited safety data, some medications are needed to treat serious conditions. If a woman is pregnant or planning a pregnancy, she should not stop taking medications she needs or begin taking new medications without first talking with her healthcare provider. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary or herbal products.
  • Talk to a healthcare provider about vaccinations (shots)
    Most vaccinations are safe during pregnancy and some vaccinations, such as the flu vaccine and the Tdap vaccine (adult tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis vaccine), are specifically recommended during pregnancy. Some vaccines protect women against infections that can cause birth defects. Having the right vaccinations at the right time can help keep a woman and her baby healthy. She should talk to her doctor about which vaccines are recommended for her during pregnancy.
    Pregnant women are more prone to severe illness from the flu, including hospitalizations and even death, when compared to women who are not pregnant. Pregnant woman with flu also have an increased risk of serious problems for their pregnancy, including preterm birth. Getting a flu shot is the first and most important step in protecting against flu. The flu shot given during pregnancy has been shown to protect both the mother and her baby (for up to 6 months after delivery) from the flu.

Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it also can be stressful. Knowing that you are doing all that you can to get ready for pregnancy, staying healthy during pregnancy, and giving your baby a healthy start in life will help you to have peace of mind.

Preventing Infections in Pregnancy

You can prevent infections and help keep your unborn baby safe. Here’s how:

Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially when,

  • Using the bathroom
  • Touching raw meat, raw eggs, or unwashed vegetables
  • Preparing food and eating
  • Gardening or touching dirt or soil
  • Handling pets
  • Being around people who are sick
  • Getting saliva (spit) on your hands
  • Caring for and playing with children
  • Changing diapers

If soap and running water are not available, you can use alcohol-based hand gel.

Wash your hands often when around children.

Their saliva and urine might contain a virus. It is likely harmless to them, but it can be harmful to your unborn baby.

Cook your meat until it’s well done.

The juices should run clear and there should be no pink inside. Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats, unless they are reheated until steaming hot. These under-cooked meats and processed meats might contain harmful bacteria.

Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and foods made from it.

Do not eat soft cheeses such as feta, brie, and queso fresco unless they have labels that say they are pasteurized. Unpasteurized products can contain harmful bacteria.

Do not touch or change dirty cat litter.

Have someone else do it. If you must change the litter yourself, be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands afterwards. Dirty cat litter might contain a harmful parasite.

Stay away from wild or pet rodents and their droppings.

Have a pest control professional get rid of pests in or around your home. If you have a pet rodent, like a hamster or guinea pig, have someone else care for it until after your baby arrives. Some rodents might carry a harmful virus.

Get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as HIV and hepatitis B, and protect yourself from them.

Some people that have HIV, hepatitis B, or an STD do not feel sick. Knowing if you have one of  these diseases is important. If you do, talk to your doctor about how you can reduce the chance that your baby will become sick.

Talk to your doctor about vaccinations (shots).

Some are recommended before you become pregnant, during pregnancy, or right after delivery. Having the right vaccinations at the right time can help keep you healthy and help keep your baby from getting very sick or having life-long health problems.

Avoid people who have an infection.

Stay away from people who you know have infections, such as chickenpox or rubella, if you have not yet had it yourself or did not have the vaccine before pregnancy.

Ask your doctor about group B strep.

About 1 in 4 women carry this type of bacteria, but do not feel sick. An easy swab test near the end of pregnancy will show if you have this type of bacteria. If you do have group B strep, talk to your doctor about how to protect your baby during labor.

 

These tips can help you prevent infections that could harm your unborn baby. You won’t always know if you have an infection – sometimes you won’t even feel sick. If you think you might have an infection or think you are at risk, see your doctor.

This is not a complete guide to a healthy pregnancy. Be sure to talk with your doctor to learn more about safe food preparation, wearing insect repellent when outside, taking medicine, and other important topics.

 

Types of Birth Defects Diagnosis of Birth Defects
Causes of Birth Defects Research and Tracking of Birth Defects

Why are Birth Defects a concern 

 

 


References:

http://www.healthline.com/health/birth-defects#Overview1

http://www.parents.com/baby/health/birth-defects/birth-defects-symptoms-treatments/

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/birth-defects.html

http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/facts.html

http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/prevention.html

http://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/infections.html

http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/diagnosis.html

http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/research.html

http://www.medicinenet.com/birth_defects/article.htm

https://childrensnational.org/choose-childrens/conditions-and-treatments/genetic-disorders-and-birth-defects/birth-defects


Disclaimer:

Doctoryouneed is committed to provide you with the most relevant and current information.
This material does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients, or recommend therapy and not a substitute for any medical advice. Always consult with your health professional  for medical advice and your doctor or pharmacist before taking any prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs, supplements and over-the-counter drugs.

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