You must assess your financial stability, find a real estate agent, buy the house, install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, secure it with locks and keep it clean.
Of course, you were already aware of how much work goes into becoming a homeowner. Now imagine that your body is a new home you’re preparing for a baby.
The first home your child will ever know is you. It is important to take the right steps to create a healthy and safe environment for your unborn baby.
January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. In the United States, 1 in 33 babies are born with a birth defect. Some of the more common defects are cleft lip or palate, congenital heart defects and spina bifida.
You can’t always prevent birth defects in your baby. But if you’re pregnant or thinking about having a baby, here are steps you can take to help reduce the risk of birth defects and improve your chances of having a healthy baby:
• Take folic acid before and during early pregnancy. This can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine in your baby. Before pregnancy take a multivitamin that has 400 micrograms of folic acid in it every day. Also, leafy green vegetables and citrus fruits are great sources of folic acid.
• The March of Dimes notes that a visit to your doctor for a preconception checkup is key to make sure you are healthy enough to have a baby. This is especially important if you have already had a baby with a birth defect. Your health care provider will check that your vaccinations are up to date and make sure any medicines that you take are safe to keep taking during pregnancy.
• Don’t drink alcohol during pregnancy. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy makes your baby more likely to have a premature birth—before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Alcohol can cause problems for your baby at any time during pregnancy, even before you know you’re pregnant. So if you are trying to have a baby, consider cutting down or eliminating alcohol in addition to stopping once you get pregnant. The same goes for smoking. Smoking during pregnancy can also cause low-birth weight babies as well as other problems.
• Protect yourself from common infections, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wash your hands often, especially after using the bathroom, sneezing or coughing, changing a diaper or preparing food. Don’t eat raw or undercooked food including lunch meats. Cook meat, chicken and fish until done. Wash food before you cook or eat it. Don’t touch cat feces or change a cat’s litter box to protect you from toxoplasmosis.
• The CDC also recommends getting tested for Group B strep. An expectant mother with Group B strep can be given IV antibiotics in order to lower the chance of passing it to the baby.
• Get up to take on vaccinations for flu, Hepatitis B, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), and whooping cough, also known as pertussis, with a Tdap vaccine. For more information about vaccinations during and after pregnancy click here: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pregnancy/index.html
• Don’t travel to a Zika-affected area unless it’s absolutely necessary. Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect called microcephaly and other problems. If you do travel to a Zika-affected areas, protect yourself from mosquito bites. If your male or female sex partner may be infected with Zika, don’t have sex. If you do have sex, use a condom. If you work in a health care setting, follow safety rules to protect yourself from exposure to Zika. To find a list of locations affected by Zika, click here:
Of course, not every pregnancy is methodically planned, but if you find yourself pregnancy, take plenty of folic acid and schedule a doctor visit as soon as possible to ensure you’ve created a safe place for your baby.
Taking these preventative steps does not always ensure a child is born without birth defects, but you can rest easy knowing you’ve taken careful preventative steps.