Every year 1 in 33 babies are born with birth defects, which account for 20% of all infant deaths. Birth defects are any abnormality in development of the fetus. This can result in malformation, functional disorders, and death. The majority of birth defects occur within the first trimester, which is why you may have heard not to consume alcohol during the first and second trimester. By the
third trimester you may be allowed a small glass of wine. The causes of over 50% of birth defects are unknown. However, there are things that you can do to prevent birth defects while pregnant.
Smoking tobacco causes cancer and heart disease, and this goes no differently for babies in the womb. It harms a developing baby because it reduces the amount of oxygen to the baby. Smoking can cause premature birth, low birth weight, increase the risk of birth defects, and death.
Avoid Alcohol and Drugs
Alcohol and drugs can cause health problems for mother and their babies. Women are told that they should not drink, especially during the first two trimesters. This is because alcohol (and drugs) passes through the placenta and goes directly to the baby. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders can occur such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Drinking and doing drugs also increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirths. It is best to continue to avoid alcohol, even the occasional glass of wine in your third trimester, but if you choose to drink, talk with your doctor and keep it in moderation. If you have a drug problem, then seek help to stop as soon as possible.
Take Folic Acid
It is recommended that a pregnant woman take at least 400 mcg of folic acid every day. Folic acid is a B vitamin that can prevent major birth defects of the baby’s spine and brain, such as spina bifida. The birth defects affecting the spine and brain are known as neural tube defects (NTDs). Doctors recommend to take folic acid at least 3 months before trying to conceive and continue to take it throughout pregnancy.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
Obesity increases the risk of pregnancy complication and birth defects. This goes the same for being underweight. Make sure to eat a nutritious meal and not to go by the rule of “eating for two.” Try to exercise and stay physical during your pregnancy if you can.
See Your Gyno
Make sure to go to your gyno appointments and talk about a plan for your health and baby’s health. Take the necessary medication needed and talk about the whooping cough vaccine. 20 babies die each year from the whooping cough in the United States. Consult with your doctor about risks and vaccinations.
Birth defects and deaths are higher depending on race and ethnicity. Studies show that survival rate of babies are lower among non-Hispanic black and Hispanic mothers. Be sure to talk with your doctor before getting pregnant about your risks and any questions you may have to be on the right track. Some babies are born with birth defects with unknown causes, but taking the steps mentioned will help keep you and baby as healthy as possible.