Not all birth defects (or injuries) can be prevented, but a woman can take some actions that increase her chance of having a healthy baby. Many birth defects happen very early in pregnancy, sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant.
Here are the ABC’s of a health pregnancy:
Avoid exposure to toxic substances and chemicals — such as cleaning solvents, lead and mercury, some insecticides, and paint. Pregnant women should avoid exposure to paint fumes.
Be sure to see your doctor and get prenatal care as soon as you think you’re pregnant. It’s important to see your doctor regularly throughout pregnancy, so be sure to keep all your prenatal care appointments.
Cigarette smoking during pregnancy can result in low birth weight babies. It has been associated with infertility, miscarriages, tubal pregnancies, infant mortality and childhood morbidity. Secondary smoke may also harm a mother and her developing baby.
Drink extra fluids (water is best) throughout pregnancy to help your body keep up with the increases in your blood volume. Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water, fruit juice, or milk each day.
Eat healthy to get the nutrients you and your unborn baby need. Your meals should include the five basic food groups.
Folic Acid – Take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily both before pregnancy and during the first few months of pregnancy to reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and spine. All women who could possibly become pregnant should take a vitamin with folic acid, every day.
Genetic testing should be done appropriately. It’s important to know your family history. If there have been problems with pregnancies or birth defects in your family, report these to your doctor.
Hand-washing is important throughout the day, especially after handling raw meat or using the bathroom. This can help prevent the spread of many bacteria and viruses that cause infection.
Iron – take 30 milligrams of iron during your pregnancy as prescribed by your doctor to reduce the risk of anemia later in pregnancy. All women of childbearing age should eat a diet rich in iron.
Join a support group for moms to be, or join a class on parenting or childbirth.
Know your limits. Let your physician know if you are experiencing any problems or complications of any kind during your pregnancy.
Legal drugs such as alcohol and caffeine are important issues for pregnant women. There is no safe amount of alcohol a woman can drink while pregnant. Caffeine, found in tea, coffee, soft drinks and chocolate, should also be limited.
Medical conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy, and high blood pressure should be treated and kept under control. Ask your doctor about any medications that may need to be changed or adjusted during pregnancy. If you are currently taking any medications ask your doctor if it is safe to take them while you’re pregnant.
Never be afraid to ask your doctor or health care provider questions about your health. It is better to take all precautions and discuss any questions or concerns you may have.
Over-the-counter cough and cold remedies may contain alcohol or other ingredients that should be avoided during pregnancy. Ask your health care provider about prescription or over-the-counter drugs that you are taking or may consider taking while pregnant.
Physical activity during pregnancy can benefit both you and your baby by lessening discomfort and fatigue, providing a sense of well-being, and increasing the likelihood of early recovery after delivery. But always check with your doctor before beginning any kind of exercise, especially during pregnancy.
Queasiness, stomach upset and morning sickness are common during pregnancy. Foods that you normally love may make you feel sick to your stomach. You may need to substitute other nutritious foods.
Read about and make plans to baby-proof your home, to make it a safer environment for your baby.
Saunas, hot tubs, and steam rooms should be avoided while you are pregnant. Excessive high heat may be harmful during your pregnancy.
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite that can seriously harm an unborn baby. Avoid eating undercooked meat and handling cat litter, and be sure to wear gloves when gardening.
Uterus size increases during the first trimester, which, along with more efficient functioning of your kidneys, may cause you to feel the need to urinate more often. If you experience burning along with frequency of urination, be sure to tell your doctor.
Vaccinations are an important concern for pregnant women. Be sure to discuss this with your doctor, and get needed vaccines before pregnancy.
Weight – Being overweight or underweight during pregnancy may cause problems. Try to get within 15 pounds of your ideal weight before pregnancy. Both you and your baby need the calories and nutrition you receive from a healthy diet. Be sure to consult with your doctor about your diet.
X rays – Avoid X rays. If you must have dental work or diagnostic tests, tell your dentist or physician that you are pregnant so that extra care can be taken.
Your baby loves you, and you should show your baby that you love her, too. Give your baby a healthy environment to live in while you are pregnant.
Zzzzz’s – Be sure to get plenty of rest…