Birth defects affect one in every 33 babies born in the United States and are a leading cause of infant mortality. Babies who survive and live with birth defects are at an increased risk for developing many lifelong physical, cognitive, and social challenges.
Although not all birth defects can be prevented, all women who could become pregnant or are pregnant can lower their risk of having babies with birth defects by following some basic health guidelines throughout their reproductive years, such as:
- Do not eat raw or runny eggs or raw sprouts.
- Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and cheese and other foods made from them.
- Talk to your health care provider about what you can do to prevent infections like Zika virus.
- Make sure that you are up-to-date with vaccinations before getting pregnant.
- Talk to your health care provider about vaccinations that you should receive during pregnancy.
- Stay away from wild or pet rodents, live poultry, lizards and turtles, and do not clean cat litter boxes while pregnant.
- When mosquitoes and ticks are active, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outside.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
The United States Public Health Service recommends that all women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms (400mcg or .4mg) of folic acid daily to prevent up to 50-70 percent of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly.For more information, visit http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/population-health/mch/cshn/birth-defects/index.html