January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, which was created to raise awareness of birth defects and to educate the public on potential causes as well as prevention and treatment options. 1 in 33 babies born in the United States will have a birth defect of some kind. To put things in perspective, this means that every four and a half minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect.
Birth defects are caused by problems in how organs and body parts form while the fetus develops in the womb. There are more than 4,000 different kinds of birth defects out there, including structural heart issues as well as spina bifida. Spina Bifida, for example, is one common condition which can require the use of catheters to go to the bathroom. Spina Bifida’s effects can range from mild to as severe as causing some paralyzation, limited mobility, and even a neurogenic bladder (which can cause urinary incontinence and retention).
Tips to Lessen Risk of Birth Defects
It’s not possible to prevent the risk of every possible birth defect, unfortunately. That being said, here are a few tips that may help maximize the chances of having a healthy baby:
- Take a Folate/Folic Acid Supplement: Low folate levels have been linked to birth defects. Those who plan to become pregnant should aim for at least 400 micrograms of folate every day, starting a month before pregnancy and every day during pregnancy.
- Get Prenatal Care as Soon as Possible: This will ensure that any potential medical issues are caught early on, and you can get the care and information you need to maintain a healthy pregnancy. Your healthcare professional can advise you best on the right nutrition and exercises during the stages of your pregnancy.
- Avoid Alcohol and Tobacco: These can greatly increase the risk of birth defects. Consult with your healthcare professional on which prescription medications you can continue throughout your pregnancy.
- Stay Healthy for You and Your Baby: Prevent infections by avoiding being around people who are sick, and be sure to keep your hands well-washed, especially before and after preparing foods. Seek medical care for any issues of concern.
For more information, visit the National Birth Defects Prevention Network. Their website offers preventative tips, printable brochures, and posters, as well as helpful resources.