“Your health before and during pregnancy has a direct impact on your baby,” says Dr. Siobhan Dolan, the March of Dimes medical advisor and co-author of Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby: The Ultimate Pregnancy Guide. “The good news is that there are many things you can do as a mom-to-be that can protect your own health and help you have a healthy baby.”
Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you are pregnant or planning a baby this season, make a New Year’s resolution to be as healthy as possible.
Here are Dr. Dolan’s 9 New Year’s Resolutions for moms-to-be:
- Take a daily multivitamin containing the B vitamin folic acid, even if you’re not trying to become pregnant. Getting enough folate or folic acid before pregnancy can help prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine. It’s a good idea to eat foods that contain folate, the natural form of folic acid, including lentils, green leafy vegetables, black beans, and orange juice. In addition, some foods are fortified with folic acid, including enriched grain products such as bread, cereal, and pasta, and certain corn masa products such as tortilla chips and tacos. Be sure to check package labels.
- Be up-to-date with your vaccinations (shots). Talk to your healthcare provider about vaccinations you should receive before or during pregnancy.
- Don’t eat raw or undercooked meat, raw or runny eggs, unpasteurized (raw) juice or dairy products, raw sprouts — or products made with them.
- Handle food safely. Be sure to wash all knives, utensils, cutting boards, and dishes used to prepare raw meat, fish or poultry before they come into contact with other foods.
- Maintain good hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before preparing or eating foods; after being around or touching pets and other animals; and after changing diapers or wiping runny noses.
- Do not put a young child’s food, utensils, drinking cups, or pacifiers in your mouth.
- Protect yourself from animals and insects known to carry diseases such as Zika virus, including mosquitos. Find out more at ZAPzika.org.
- Stay away from wild or pet rodents, live poultry, lizards and turtles during pregnancy.
- Let someone else clean the cat litter box!
Besides taking a daily multivitamin containing folic acid to prevent birth defects of the brain and spine, women can take the above steps to avoid infections that can hurt them and their babies during pregnancy. Foodborne illnesses, viruses, and parasites can cause birth defects and lifelong disabilities, such as hearing loss or learning problems.
January is Birth Defects Prevention Month – the perfect time to learn what you can do to have a healthy pregnancy. We’ll have posts every week on different birth defects topics. So, be sure to be on the look-out for more info!
Have questions? Text or email them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.