Preventing birth defects is more important than most people realize. People rarely want to think about the possibility of their baby being born with birth defects, but it happens more commonly than you might think. It’s estimated that around 120,000 babies are born every year with birth defects — and that’s in the United States alone. That amounts to roughly one in 33 babies being born with birth defects. Because of this, January has been designated as National Birth Defects Prevention Month.
The Importance of Prevention
Birth defects can affect every part of the body, from the foot to the brain. Some birth defects can easily be addressed and won’t affect the baby’s life or their quality of life, such as a cleft lip. Others can be much more serious, such as heart defects or hearing loss. To prevent such birth defects, you have to know what causes them. The following are some of the common causes of birth defects:
- Drinking alcohol, doing drugs, or smoking during pregnancy
- Having uncontrolled diabetes before and during pregnancy
- Being obese during pregnancy
- Being infected with certain viruses during pregnancy, such as the Zika virus
- Certain medications
- Experiencing an elevated body temperature during pregnancy
- Being of an older age during pregnancy (which can increase the risk of chromosomal abnormalities)
How to Prevent Birth Defects
First of all, live as healthily as possible during your pregnancy — stop smoking and drinking and don’t take any drugs. Make sure that you see your primary healthcare provider in California routinely. They can advise you on what medications you can and can’t take. Finally, make sure to introduce plenty of folic acid into your diet.
Folic acid contains folate, which helps ensure that your cells function properly and is necessary for forming your red blood cells and DNA. Folate can also help prevent various birth defects as well as prevent heart disease and anemia.