The month of January has been named National Birth Defects Prevention Month, and here at Bundoo, we wanted to review some statistics about common birth defects and share ways that you can decrease your chances of having a baby affected with one.
A birth defect is when something develops differently than how the structure usually forms. This can include diagnoses like cleft palate or a clubbed foot. Birth defects are not uncommon, with 1 in 33 pregnancies affected by them in the United States. While some are not avoidable and related to genetic or developmental issues, others can actually be prevented.
If you’ve ever wondered why you’ve been told to take folic acid when trying to conceive and during your pregnancy, the prevention of one type of birth defect is actually the reason. We know that folic acid is extremely important in the correct development of a fetus’s brain and spine (also known as the neural tube). Levels that are too low can lead to issues such as anencephaly (and incompletely developed brain) and spina bifida.
The recommended amount is 600 mcg/day (higher if you are carrying multiples and have certain other medical issues), and you can get this through a combination of food and your prenatal vitamin. To ensure you hit this target, you should take a prenatal vitamin with 400 mcg/dose. It’s actually best to start getting this amount for 3 moths prior to trying to conceive to ensure adequate stores, and since so much of this development happens so early in the pregnancy that if you wait until you get a positive pregnancy test, it might not be as effective.
Other birth defects can occur as the result of ingesting harmful substances. Avoiding alcohol, illicit drugs, and cigarettes is one way to decrease your risk of certain kinds of developmental issues. Certain medications can interfere with growth and development, so be sure to review any medications (including over-the-counter medications and supplements) with your provider. This is why a preconception visit can be so helpful to ensure you get your pregnancy off to its healthiest start!
Some infections can also lead to issues with your baby’s development. The CDC has a great list of ways to reduce your chance of contracting certain infections in pregnancy, so be sure to check it out here. If you do develop a fever and are pregnant, don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider so they can figure out the best plan for you.
While a birth defect might sound like a scary term, it’s important to know that many are minor and a baby born with one can absolutely go on to have a normal, healthy life. If you have questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to discuss this with your doctor or midwife.
- January has been named National Birth Defects Prevention Month.
- 1 in 33 pregnancies are affected by birth defects in the United States.
- Some defects are preventable, such as taking folic acid to prevent neural tube defects.