When you are pregnant, there is a lot to think about and do to get ready for the arrival of your new baby. Some of them are exciting and you look forward to, like decorating a nursery or choosing a name. Other things can be a scary, like waiting to find out if your baby is healthy or if they have a birth defect.
Birth defects are defined by the Center for Disease Control as “conditions that cause structural changes in one or more parts of the body; are present at birth; and have a serious, adverse effect on health, development, or functional ability.” Birth defects can range from something small, like an extra finger or toe, to more complicated conditions such as congenital heart defects, Down Syndrome, Cleft Lip/Cleft palate, Spina Bifida and more.
According to the CDC about 1 in every 33 babies has a birth defect. The rates in Colorado are comparable to the national averages, and have remained fairly constant over time.
“A majority of the causes of birth defects is unknown,” she says. “However, we do know that some are caused by genetic traits, and the rest are due to exposure to outside components like drugs, alcohol, tobacco and certain medications. There are other risk factors as well, such as obesity, diabetes, age, or having a family history of birth defects.”
Dr. Ring added that there are steps that both women who are pregnant as well as women trying to get pregnant can take to increase her chances of having a healthy baby.
Here are 8 Way to Help Prevent Birth Defects
- Avoid alcohol, drugs and tobacco
- Eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly
- Avoid infections and foodborne illnesses
- Take 400 mcg folic acid daily
- Avoid workplace and environmental exposure to things that could harm your baby
- Have regularly scheduled visits with your OB
- If you are trying to get pregnant and have high blood pressure, are overweight, have diabetes or have another medical condition, talk to you physician about steps you can take to address those issues before conception
- Genetic counseling and testing is available for expectant parents, and some people find it helpful because it gives the parents a chance to prepare for a child with special needs ahead of time