January is Birth Defects Prevention Month. Major birth defects are 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.
About one in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect. Birth defects are a leading cause of infant death, accounting for more than 1 of every 5 infant deaths. In addition, babies born with birth defects have a greater chance of illness and long term disability than babies without birth defects.
Not all birth defects can be prevented. But a woman can increase her own chance of having a healthy baby. Many birth defects happen very early in pregnancy, sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Remember that about half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Here are some steps a woman can take to get ready for a healthy pregnancy:
- Take a vitamin with 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and street drugs.
- Keep hands clean by washing them often with soap and water to
- prevent infections.
- See a health care professional regularly.
- Talk with the health care professional about any medical problems and medicine use (both prescription and over-the-counter).
- Ask about avoiding any substances at work or at home that might be harmful to a developing baby.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
- Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and foods made from it.
- Avoid eating raw or under cooked meat.
While pregnant, keep up these healthy habits, get early prenatal care, and go to every appointment. For more information about preventing birth defects, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/index.html