“About two to four percent of all live births there will be a congenital malformation or birth defect. The most common are heart defects in the infant, second most common is neural tube defects or problems with formation of the brain and spinal cord.”
While not all birth defects are preventable, there are many things that expectant moms and women trying to become pregnant can do to better their odds for a healthy pregnancy.
“One of the best things that an expecting mother can do is before she becomes pregnant to visit with her OBGYN to review her medical history. If she has any health problems to get them well controlled or review her medication list before she becomes pregnant because a lot of congenital defects come from medications or environmental exposures that we can prevent before conception occurs.”
Dr. Richards also mentioned focusing on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. That includes getting regular exercise, eating healthy, as well as avoiding alcohol, cigarettes, and recreational drug use. It is also very important to be taking a prenatal vitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.
“I tell all of my patients, if you are not using birth control, then being on a prenatal vitamin is a great idea because even if you aren’t planning a pregnancy, a multivitamin does good things for your health and if you do have that unanticipated pregnancy then you are covered.”
Whether or not you have a history of birth defects in your family, it is imperative that as soon as you become pregnant to get with your physician to discuss certain risks and the changes in your lifestyle that you need to make in order to have a heathy pregnancy.
“I think that a lot of people avoid going to the physician because they are worried about finding out negative results or abnormalities but most of these things that we find, there’s interventions we can take or ways that we can help to either help with the defect or to help the mother and her health and so I always encourage people, knowledge is power, and it’s a good thing to go see your physician.”
Another thing new mother’s don’t realize is that there are a lot of foods that are not recommended during pregnancy as well as foods that they need to add to their diet. Choosemyplate.gov is a great resource that can help moms to be and of course you can always talk to your doctor for more information.