Prevention

Make a Plan

You need to know that many of the factors that may cause problems in your baby actually occur before pregnancy and in the earliest months of gestation, when you may not know you are pregnant. That is why you should address all of these issues head-on before becoming pregnant if you are looking to have a child. This means stopping smoking and drinking, making sure you are at a healthy weight and taking folic acid.

Start by talking to your doctor about your plans and what you can do as early as possible for the best odds of having a healthy baby.

Get Regular Medical Care

When you become pregnant, be sure you have a doctor you can trust and stick with throughout your pregnancy. Doctors are trained to look for signs that something may be wrong with your baby. You might not know otherwise.

Bring someone with you to doctor’s visits if you wish. Don’t be shy: ask questions. Listen closely, ask questions and be sure to be seen regularly throughout your pregnancy.

Prevent Infections

Infection can put your baby at risk. You need to be extra vigilant about washing your hands with soap and water frequently, especially after:

  • Using the bathroom
  • Preparing raw food
  • Handling pets
  • Being around someone who is sick
  • Gardening or touching dirt

Don’t share cups or utensils with young children, who are more likely to carry a contagious ailment. Avoid unpasteurized milk. Talk to your doctor to ensure you are up-to-date on your shots and vaccinations.
Here’s a tip sheet from the CDC about preventing infections.

Keep Diabetes in Control

Uncontrolled or poorly maintained diabetes, even before pregnancy, can lead to birth defects of the heart, spine or other organs, as well as other complications like premature birth or, worse, a miscarriage.

Many pregnant, diabetic women were diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes earlier in life. However, there is also what is known as gestational diabetes – diabetes that does not set in until pregnancy. Your doctor will check your blood sugar during pregnancy to make sure you and your baby are healthy.

The CDC has seven tips for women with diabetes to help boost the odds of having a healthy baby. Check them outhere.

Nutrition

Maintaining a healthy diet is also a vital part to help promote a healthy birth and a healthy baby, and it may decrease the risk of birth defects in your child. Your baby is exposed to everything you put in your body. It doesn’t mean you can’t indulge occasionally, but keep this in mind when deciding on what you’re going to eat.

Reach a Healthy Weight

Women who are obese — that is, having a body-mass index of 30 or higher – are more likely to have a baby with birth defects and other unwanted complications. Ideally, you should reach a healthy weight before becoming pregnant.

For this reason, you should also try to stay active. Ideally, the time to lose weight is before pregnancy. Getting to a healthy weight before becoming pregnant may decrease your odds of having a baby who suffers from a birth defect.

Folic Acid

Folic acid, a B vitamin, can help prevent brain and spinal birth defects like anencephaly and spina bifida. There’s a catch, however: folic acid works best if a woman already has an ample amount in her system when she becomes pregnant. The CDC recommends taking 400 micrograms of folic acid every day for a least a month before becoming pregnant and continuing this regimen throughout your pregnancy.