Every four minutes, a baby is born with a major birth defect in the United States. Babies born with birth defects have a greater chance of illness and long term disability than babies without birth defects. They are a leading cause of death among infants, accounting for about 20% of mortality in the first year of life. To raise awareness about the impact of birth defects and the steps taken to prevent them, January is National Birth Defect Prevention Month. Although every birth defect cannot be prevented, there are things a woman can do to prepare for a healthy pregnancy, such as:
- Maintain a healthy diet by eating well balanced and nutritional meals. Consult with your doctor about taking a multivitamin to gain more nutrients for mother and baby.
- Avoid consuming harmful toxins that lead to birth defects, including alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, and caffeine.
- Obtain genetic counseling and birth defect screening, particularly if you have any family history of birth defects.
- Stay active and get fit. The babies of overweight women have an increased risk of birth defects.
- Treating long-term conditions such as diabetes are the keys to a healthy lifestyle before and during pregnancy.
Men are also encouraged to make lifestyle changes when planning ahead for pregnancy with their partner. As some birth defects are genetic, it is important that men participate fully in any family medical history research that takes place.
Steady communication with your doctor is very important to assist with planning ahead. All medications should be discussed with a doctor prior to being taken, including prescription medication, over-the-counter medication and dietary and herbal supplements.
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.
If you are an expecting mother in need of a physician, the Women’s Health Center at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center is open six days a week. Appointments are necessary to see a physician and can be made by calling 718-291-3276.
All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.