Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Education and awareness are the first steps to preventing defects in infants, and the immediate step is taking action. Knowing how to have a healthy pregnancy is important in order to ensure a healthy baby. Some steps can be challenging for a lot of women due to the fact that a complete change of lifestyle is necessary, but it will all be worth it.
Plan Your Pregnancy
A women who plans to have children must ensure that she has enough folic acid in her body. Ideally, folic acid should be abundant in the body for at least a month before pregnancy and must be continued to be taken during the pregnancy. Doing so can help prevent major defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly.
Folic acid is sourced from both supplements and foods, in addition to a healthy diet.
Seeking professional health care on a regular basis is also important to start prenatal care or as soon as a woman suspects she is pregnant. Regular checkups are needed throughout pregnancy, so a woman should religiously follow all her appointments.
If you are trying to conceive or the idea has been introduced between couples, know that it is never too early to get ready. Your goal is to be in your best health so you can carry the baby well and provide all the nutrients that it needs.
Avoid Harmful Substances
It is better to avoid that glass of wine you’ve been craving during pregnancy. In fact, don’t drink at all. Alcohol is passed down through the placenta and can go directly to your baby’s blood supply. Any level of alcohol, no matter how little, isn’t safe for the developing fetus. Excessive consumption of alcohol can cause various fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, including the dreaded fetal alcohol syndrome, the primary preventable cause of intellectual disability in America. Stillbirths and miscarriages are also listed as risks when drinking during pregnancy.
Pregnant women should also avoid smoking as this can cause certain birth defects such as cleft palate or cleft lip, preterm birth, and infant death. Second-hand smoke should also be avoided, as it can put the pregnancy at risk of these dangers. Smokers should quit before getting pregnant, but if you are already pregnant and happen to be a smoker, you should quit as early as you can. Doing so can still protect the baby against health problems including low birth weight. Remember that it’s never too late to choose smoking cessation.
Avoid Environmental Hazards
Toxins and chemicals can pass through the placenta and be directed into the blood supply of the fetus, so it’s critical that a pregnant woman avoids getting exposed to any environmental chemicals. Watch out for pesticides, contaminated water, lead, gasoline, paint thinner, and oil-based paints.
If your job involves having to work in such environments, like in farming and agriculture, or industrial setups where you are exposed to gas, paint, solvents, industrial cleaners and the like, it might be a good idea to avoid this environment, take a leave or find another place to work.
Some chemicals found in personal care products may cause defects in babies. There are studies that have linked phthalate (a chemical found in fragrances, nail polish and similar products) exposure in pregnant women to defects in baby boys.
There are also chemicals found in hair dyes that have caused defects in rats in a clinical study. If you must change your hair color during pregnancy, do so in the first trimester and consider using plant-based dyes.
Know Which Medications and Vaccinations to Take
When you have to take certain medications, talk to your health care provider about it. We all know that not all medicines are safe for expecting women, so always choose to take precautions. You have to understand that the safety of certain medications pregnant women can take can be quite hard to determine, but despite the limitation on information, do not hesitate to confide in your doctor about it, whether these are over-the-counter medicines or prescription medications.
There are vaccinations that pregnant women should take. In fact, most vaccinations are considered safe for pregnant women, including the Tdap vaccine and the flu vaccine. These can ward off infections that may possibly cause defects.
Getting the right vaccinations at the right time is critical in order to ensure the health of the baby. You can start by asking your doctor what the recommended vaccinations for pregnant women are.
Pregnancy is an exciting experience for a lot of women, but it can also be a source of stress. It’s important that you know what you’re doing when you’re pregnant and during the planning process. Always strive to be healthy so that your baby can also enjoy a healthy life.