Birth defects prevention

January 2011 is National Birth Defects Prevention Month.  This year’s theme is Medication Use Before, During, and After Pregnancy.

While most birth defects cannot be prevented because their causes are not known, women can take a number of steps before and during pregnancy to reduce their risk. These steps include taking a multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid daily starting before pregnancy and in early pregnancy. This helps to prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, including spina bifida, and may also help prevent heart defects. Another step is getting a pre-pregnancy check up and making sure that the medications you are taking are safe to use during pregnancy.

Talk with your health care provider and pharmacist about your medications.  For the most current information about medications (prescription or over-the-counter), drugs, vaccines, chemical or environmental agents and their potential risks, we suggest that you contact a Teratology Information Service (TIS).  A teratogen is any agent or substance that can affect fetal development.  To answer questions properly, it is sometimes necessary to know how far along in her pregnancy a woman was when she came in contact with the substance, what medications she was taking at the time, some of her medical history, etc.  Trained professionals in the field of teratogens can answer your specific questions while maintaining your anonymity. They also can tell you if a medication is safe to use while breastfeeding. The national toll-free phone number to call is 866-626-6847.

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