Keeping you and your baby healthy during Birth Defects Awareness Month
Jan. 25, 2023
By Katie Minor
If you or someone you know has ever been pregnant, you probably know how difficult it can be to adjust to a different way of life for the sake of a healthy baby. Changes in your diet, your sleep schedule, and your overall health can be sources of stress.
But there are plenty of ways you can ensure your own health and the health of your baby.
January is National Birth Defects Awareness Month. Congenital abnormalities, like other disabilities, come in many forms, and some are more serious than others.
Blood disorders, for example, can be especially dangerous. One in 10 people with a blood clot will die if it moves to the lungs. But with early intervention, blood disorders and their complications can be minimized.
For children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities, large-scale disability awareness and education is extremely important. While researchers still are not certain what causes autism, the health-care community can still work to address the needs of children and families living with developmental disabilities.
What can you do to prevent birth defects?
Not all birth defects can be prevented. If you are expecting a child, it is important to remember that disabilities are fairly common, and children with disabilities are still able to live a healthy, fulfilling life.
The National Birth Defects Prevention Network offers five helpful tips for pregnant people to ensure a healthy baby.
Take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. Folic acid is a B vitamin that our bodies use to make new cells. When taken daily before and during pregnancy, folic acid can prevent major defects of the baby’s brain and spine.
Plan visits with your health-care provider. Not only will your doctor perform wellness checkups on you and your baby, they can also answer any questions you may have about family medical history, diet and supplements and public resources available to you and your baby, such as Medicaid or the federally-funded Women, Infants and Children program, housed in Monongalia County at MCHD WIC.
Reduce your risk of infection with vaccines. Flu, Tdap and COVID-19 vaccines are the three most important shots recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for pregnant people. Getting these vaccines greatly reduces the risk of infection which can cause dangerous birth defects for the baby.
Don’t neglect your own health. This means physical and mental health. Eat nourishing foods, move your body and seek treatment if you are struggling with your mental health. This will set you and your baby up for success.
Avoid harmful substances like drugs and alcohol. One of the best ways to keep yourself and your baby healthy is to avoid using substances while pregnant or breastfeeding. Misusing substances often leads to harmful defects in children, so if you are struggling with substance misuse, talk to your doctor about getting help.
Remember, congenital abnormalities are fairly common. One in 33 babies is born with some form of a birth defect, and it’s by no means the end of the world for you or your baby if this is the case. People with disabilities live healthy, fulfilling lives every day. Be sure to talk to your doctor about available resources, and continue to care for you and your baby’s health.
Katie Minor is the public information office assistant at Monongalia County Health Department.