We know that not all birth defects can be prevented. But, we also know that women can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by managing health conditions and adopting healthy behaviors before and during pregnancy.
Make a PACT for Prevention
- Plan Ahead – Planning ahead encourages women and men to focus on their preconception health, which refers to health during the years they can have a baby. Preconception health involves taking steps now to protect the health of a baby they might have sometime in the future. All women and men can benefit from preconception health, whether or not they plan to have a baby one day. Preconception health is about getting and staying healthy overall, throughout their lives. In addition, no one expects an unplanned pregnancy. But, 35% of all pregnancies in Utah are unplanned. Planning ahead involves taking control, setting goals for the future, choosing healthy habits, and taking the steps needed to get there.
- Avoid harmful substance – Certain substances, such as alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, can increase the risk for some types of birth defects. Some substances in the workplace or home have also been linked to birth defects and poor pregnancy outcomes. If a woman is pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, avoiding these exposures before and during pregnancy can help increase her chances for a healthy baby. If a woman gets pregnant unexpectedly, she might expose her developing baby to alcohol or other harmful substances before she realizes she is pregnant. This is because a woman can be pregnant and not know it for up to 6 weeks.
- Choose a healthy lifestyle – One of the best ways for women to prepare for healthy pregnancies and healthy babies is by adopting healthy habits before becoming pregnant. By adopting these habits, women are showing their love to their future babies and also to themselves. Even if a woman is not actively planning a pregnancy, getting healthy can help boost her health and her mood. Healthier women are less likely to have problems with pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes, miscarriage, or preterm labor. Likewise, their babies are less likely to have problems such as preterm birth, low birth weight, high birth weight, stillbirth, and birth defects. Getting healthier involves taking steps such as eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and addressing chronic health conditions, such as diabetes.
- Talk to your healthcare provider – Whether you are planning to become pregnant or not, talk to your healthcare provider about reproductive and preconception health care. Your doctor will want to discuss your personal and family health history and any medical conditions you currently have that could affect a pregnancy. He or she may make suggestions to improve your health. He or she also may discuss any previous pregnancy problems you may have had, medicines that you currently are taking, vaccinations that you might need, and steps you can take before pregnancy to prevent certain birth defects.