Pregnant? These 4 Healthy Choices Help Prevent Birth Defects

Most women go through their pregnancy hoping and praying for one thing above all: a healthy baby. 

Of the many worries that a mother-to-be has, birth defects can be a scary thought. While there are some birth defects that cannot be prevented, the majority of expectant mothers can ensure they deliver a healthy infant by committing to their own health, especially prior to conception. 

One of the best things to do in terms of having a child is to plan ahead–as far ahead as possible (because once children are born, let’s face it, nothing will ever go according to plan ever again…). When a woman can ensure that she has command of any health conditions she has, along with developing healthy behaviors prior to conception–she has an excellent chance of bringing a healthy baby into the world.  

Of course, women who find themselves with a “surprise baby” can also work to ensure a healthy baby. It’s as simple as making a commitment to healthy choices and behaviors as soon as they become aware of their pregnancy. The key to preventing birth defects lies in the power of commitment; making committed choices that directly contribute to the health of both mother and child. 

Whether you are a woman who is preparing to conceive or one who has just had an unexpected happy surprise, here’s the most important ways you can commit to having a healthy pregnancy in order to have a healthy baby. 

1. Start taking Folic Acid

First things first, ensure that you get 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. This essential nutrient is a B vitamin that plays a huge role in cell growth and tissue–namely, a developing baby’s brain. When a pregnant woman has sufficient levels of folate from the very start, that alone slashes the risk of birth defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly by a whopping 70%!

Ideally, the best time to start taking folic acid in preparation for pregnancy is at least a month before conception, and to continue taking it throughout the term. The daily 400 mcg of folic acid can be met by taking a supplement or fortified food along with incorporating folate-rich foods into your diet. 

2. Regular visits with a healthcare professional

Regular visits with a healthcare professional are fundamental to ensuring one has a healthy pregnancy. Prenatal visits allow for the assessment of any existing health conditions, identifying underlying ones, and the management of both. Continuing these regular appointments throughout the pregnancy gives the medical professional the chance to monitor the baby’s development, as well as the health of the mother. If there are any problems that arise, they can be caught and addressed quickly, which yields much better outcomes. In essence, planning for a prolonged period of consistent medical examinations translates into a greater chance at delivering a healthy child. 

3. Consciously choose a healthy lifestyle

One of the most important decisions you can make during your pregnancy is to actively choose a healthy lifestyle everyday. It’s not always easy, but by making informed choices with the purpose of preserving your health–and in turn, that of your baby–is an investment with great returns. 

Ideally, part of your pre-pregnancy planning should include ensuring that you are at a healthy weight before trying to conceive. Women who are obese before pregnancy are at a much higher risk for complications, including birth defects. 

During pregnancy, weight gain can vary greatly from person to person, and your doctor will be the person who can determine what is problematic or normal. However, it’s important to make healthy lifestyle choices every day. For example, poorly controlled diabetes during pregnancy results in an increased risk of birth defects and other complications (for both mother and child). 

2. Avoid harmful substances.

During pregnancy, it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to avoid alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and partaking in any kind of substance, such as marijuana and other drugs. 

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause serious complications in the baby, which can present as physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. These disabilities are typically known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs). To have a healthy baby, a pregnant woman must avoid alcohol. If alcohol dependency is an issue, talk with your doctor immediately. There are community resources available that are tailored to deal with this issue and time will be of the essence. 

Smoking tobacco during pregnancy can result in a high risk of defects like cleft lip and palate as well as preterm birth, low birth weight, among other complications. The dangers posed by cigarette smoke is so great that it extends to simply being around secondhand smoke. Make it a priority to avoid smoking cigarettes along with areas where secondhand smoke is present.  

Partaking in marijuana and other drugs increases the risk of birth defects, low birth weight, and preterm birth. While marijuana is likely the most commonly used substance, it is generally agreed on by medical professionals that it should be avoided completely during pregnancy. Women who use marijuana for medical reasons are strongly encouraged to consult with their healthcare providers to seek an alternative during her pregnancy. 

4. Communicate with your healthcare providers

Pregnancy is a journey, and by working together with your doctors and nurses as a team, you invest in having a healthy baby as your outcome. Communicating with your teammates is of paramount importance all throughout your term. 

One of the main things you should communicate about with healthcare providers is medication. Certain medications can pose a high risk for birth defects. There are also many medications that are used to treat serious conditions but have limited data in regards to effects on pregnant women. 

There are a myriad of factors that come into play in terms of pregnancy and medication–both prescription and over-the-counter. For this reason, don’t stop taking medication or begin taking new medications without discussing it in detail with your doctor first. 

We Care About Your Health!

At Women’s Healthcare Associates we have a goal to provide you with one of the best experiences in women’s care in the greater Amarillo area. Our professional Staff offers personal care that focuses on the health and well-being of our patients as individuals. Our Services include comprehensive healthcare specialized just for women, prenatal and pregnancy care, digital mammography, bone density screening, ultrasound, contraception, menopause and more. For more information about how our comprehensive women’s healthcare can help you, please give us a call at (806) 355-6330


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