Is he looking for you?
Birth defects are the leading cause of
death for infants in the United States.
An estimated 150,000 infants will be
born with birth defects this year; about
500 in Rhode Island.
Most mothers-to-be expect that healthy habits during pregnancy will give
their babies a good start after birth, but many don't realize that
adopting those healthy habits before pregnancy can have an impact, too.
Because half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, it's
a good idea to be prepared. Here are some tips from the March of Dimes:
Every day, take 400 micrograms of folic acid, a B vitamin
that can reduce the risk of brain and spinal cord defects by 70
percent. Folic acid is most beneficial when the mother-to-be has
made taking folic acid a habit before conception; a daily
multivitamin can keep you covered. A bonus: research suggests
that folic acid may also help prevent cervical and colon cancer.
Get regular medical check-ups with your primary care
physician and discuss any health risks that might be associated
with pregnancy, regardless of whether you intend to conceive. If
you have a chronic medical problem, such as diabetes, epilepsy
or high blood pressure, manage it effectively by getting regular
check-ups with a specialist and following his or her advice.
Keep your vaccinations up-to-date, especially measles,
hepatitis and rubella. These can be passed from mother to child
before birth and cause serious birth defects, even if the
mother's symptoms are mild.
Get fit. Find your ideal weight, eat healthy and exercise
regularly. A balanced diet ensures that you have the proper
nutrients to give the baby a good start. Watch what you eat;
don't eat undercooked meat or foods that may put you at risk for
Don't smoke, drink excessive amounts of alcohol or abuse
drugs. These also increase the chance of birth defects, even
before the baby is conceived.
Be aware of toxic substances or chemicals and minimize
your contact with them. Don't handle cat litter or inhale cat
litter fumes; this can cause toxoplasmosis, an infection that
can harm an unborn child.
Practice proper hand washing techniques to guard against
Don't forget dad. Fathers-to-be should adopt these
practices as well. In some instances, as in the case of alcohol
or cigarette use, poor health practices can affect the quality
of the father's sperm, increasing the risk of birth defects. In
other cases, a father's unhealthy habits can put the
mother-to-be at increased risk.
For more information, visit the March of Dimes online at www.modimes.org.