According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 120,000 babies are born with congenital defects every year in the United States. Congenital (birth) defects refer to structural or functional anomalies that are caused by problems during the baby’s development in the womb. They can be caused by environmental or genetic factors, or both.
While birth defects cannot always be prevented, there are things you can do to help lower your baby’s risk for these problems and give your bundle of joy the best possible start in life. Whether you’re expecting or planning to get pregnant, consider these tips that we’ve gathered from our board-certified OB/GYNs here at Dekalb Women’s Specialists in Decatur, Georgia.
Tip #1 Get Regular Prenatal Check-Ups.
Through regular prenatal visits, your OB/GYN can closely monitor the development of your baby and order the necessary screening tests to check for chromosomal or fetal structural anomalies. Prenatal visits also provide an opportunity for your OB/GYN to give you expert advice about diet (which foods to eat and avoid), exercise, getting enough sleep, and which lifestyle habits and medications to stay away from. Through these visits, your OB/GYN can also prescribe prenatal vitamins, which help fill any nutritional gaps not met by your diet alone.
If you are just planning to get pregnant, your OBGYN can recommend a preconception counseling appointment. They can address modifiable risk factors, provide you with education about healthy pregnancy, and discuss any questions you have about genetic conditions that run in your family.
Tip #2 Get Your Daily Dose of Folic Acid.
Experts recommend that expectant mothers and women trying to get pregnant get at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. Folic acid reduces your baby’s risk of developing a neural tube defect called spina bifida. Since it can be quite difficult to get the recommended daily amount of folic acid through your diet alone, make sure to take your prenatal vitamins as prescribed by your doctor.
Tip #3 Get Vaccinated.
Experts recommend that women planning to become pregnant stay on top of the vaccines recommended for them, especially measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and varicella (chicken pox) vaccines, since these cannot be administered during pregnancy.
Measles and rubella can cause fetal deafness, blindness, and brain damage, especially when it occurs between the 3rd and 16th week of gestation. Although there are no studies to support that there is a link between mumps and birth anomalies, mumps infection during the first trimester increases your baby’s risk (up to 27 percent) for death.
Additionally, chicken pox, when it develops during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, can put your baby at a slight risk for congenital varicella syndrome, a rare congenital anomaly characterized by ocular, neurological, and growth defects.
Tip #4 Avoid Alcohol Intake, Smoking, and Using Illegal Drugs.
These substances are teratogenic, which means they can cause defects in a developing fetus upon exposure:
- Alcohol- All types of alcohol are harmful to your unborn child, putting them at risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs)—a group of conditions associated with vision, learning, hearing, and memory problems in babies—and even death.
- Tobacco-Smoking is associated with preterm birth, infant death, and certain birth defects (e.g., cleft lip or cleft palate).
- Marijuana- The illegal drug most commonly used by pregnant women, marijuana is linked to premature birth, stillbirth, and fetal brain development problems.
If you’re using medical marijuana for a certain condition, speak with your OB/GYN or primary care physician about any alternative treatment.
Trusted OB/GYNs in Decatur, GA
Here at Dekalb Women’s Specialists, our OB/GYNs are passionate about providing high-quality, compassionate, and comprehensive care for the women in the communities we are privileged to serve. You can count on us to guide and support you every step of the way— from preconception counseling, your first prenatal check-up, all the way through your postpartum period—constantly ensuring you and your baby are healthy and safe.
If you are pregnant, think you may be, or planning a family in the future, please call us for an informative consultation with one of our OB/GYNS: (404) 508-2000. Alternatively, you may request an appointment right here on our website. We look forward to serving you!