Reducing Risk of Birth Defects

While worrying about things you can’t control isn’t healthy (for you or your baby), you do have some control over your baby’s risk of serious birth defects. Here are a few steps you can take to give your baby the best chance of a healthy birth.

Take Your Vitamins

More specifically, make sure your prenatal vitamin contains at least 100 percent of the daily value of folic acid and take it every day. You can also find folate/folic acid in many nutritious foods, including breakfast cereals and breads.

Get Your Shots

If you’re going to be pregnant during flu season, it’s important to get your flu shot to protect your baby. You should also check with your doctor to make sure you’re up to date on other important vaccinations, including Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) and rubella (German measles).

Steer Clear of Harmful Substances

Drinking alcohol, using tobacco products and taking illicit drugs is NOT okay during pregnancy. If you need help to stop using any of these substances, talk to your doctor right away. In addition, be mindful of these potentially toxic substances:

  • Lead: Found in old paint, jewelry and pottery made in certain countries
  • Mercury: Found in higher amounts in certain fish, including shark, king mackerel, swordfish and tilefish
  • Vitamin A: While an important nutrient, too much vitamin A—more than 10,000 IU—may cause birth defects.

Go Over Your Meds

Make sure your doctor knows what medications you take regularly, and don’t start or stop taking any medications without first talking to your doctor.

Prevent Infection

Protect yourself (and your baby) from infection by taking these steps:

  • Wash your hands often, especially after using the restroom, changing a diaper, and before and after preparing food.
  • Make sure your food is cooked thoroughly and heat deli meats until steaming.
  • Don’t change litter boxes or clean up after cats.
  • Use mosquito repellant that contains DEET and stay away from areas prone to Zika

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