What can I do to have a healthy baby?
Plan your pregnancy. 50% of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. This is significant because much of fetal development and many birth defects occur in the first few weeks after conception in the developing baby. In order to make a difference in your baby's health and to help prevent birth defects, optimal health must begin before conception. This means taking a daily multivitamin, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding risky behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking drugs before you get pregnant.
Take a daily multivitamin containing folic acid before you become pregnant. Folic acid is a B vitamin found in green leafy vegetables, dried beans, and fortified foods such as cereal, orange juice, and flour. When taken around the time of conception and in early pregnancy, folic acid lowers the risk for certain birth defects, including neural tube defects and oral facial clefts. All women of child-bearing age should take 400 mcg of folic acid every day.
Folic Acid Vitamin Video (English & Spanish)
Eat a healthy diet. Make sure you eat plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and protein. This will provide you and your baby with vitamins and nutrients, as well as help you maintain a healthy weight. Obesity before pregnancy may increase the risk for certain birth defects.
Don't smoke, drink alcohol, or take drugs. Smoking releases nicotine, carbon monoxide, and other chemicals which are harmful to the developing baby. Babies born to mothers who smoke have a greater chance of being born too early or too small. Studies have also shown a higher chance of breathing problems, sudden infant death syndrome, and perhaps facial clefts.
No amount of alcohol during pregnancy is safe. Alcohol affects the developing brain and can cause lifelong developmental problems, as well as low birth weight, prematurity, recognizable facial features, behavior and learning problems, and difficulties with memory, attention, and judgment. Alcohol can also cause birth defects in the developing baby. The effects of alcohol on the developing baby are 100% preventable. Don't drink alcohol if you are pregnant or could become pregnant.
Cocaine, crack, heroin, amphetamines, and other street drugs can harm your baby and cause lifelong health problems for your baby if you use them while you are pregnant. Stop using and stay clean before you become pregnant.
Talk to your health care provider about any health issues, your family history, or medications before you become pregnant. Medical problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart or blood vessel problems may increase risks for the mother or baby. It is important to discuss a treatment plan and any medications you take with your health care provider. If you have a family history of neural tube defects, have diabetes, or take certain medications, you may need to take a higher amount of folic acid. Also, your family history may provide clues to your risk to have a child with birth defects.
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This information is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used in place of a call or visit to a medical, health, or other competent professional.