January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. The theme this year is “Prevent to Protect:
Preventing Infections for Baby’s Protection.” 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. Some infections before and during pregnancy can hurt both you and your baby. They can cause birth defects and lifelong disabilities, such as hearing loss or learning problems. You can reduce your risk of getting an infection during pregnancy to help protect your baby by following these recommendations:

Get Vaccinated.

  • Vaccinations can help a woman to be healthy during her pregnancy.
  • Some vaccinations are better to get while pregnant to help protect the mother as well as the baby. These include the flu and whooping cough vaccines.
  • Other vaccinations like the MMR vaccine can cause a fever. Fevers may be harmful to a developing baby—so it is better to get this vaccine before pregnancy.

Talk to your healthcare provider.

  • Women should talk to their healthcare provider, even before becoming pregnant, about how to have a healthy pregnancy.
  • Discuss how to prevent Zika.
  • Discuss how to prevent STDs.

Prevent insect bites.

  • Pregnant women should avoid being bitten by insects—especially mosquitoes— which can carry many harmful diseases.
  • Use EPA registered insect repellents with one of the following ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus (paramenthane-3,8- diol).
  • Wear long pants and shirts—especially during warm months when mosquitoes are more active.
  • Avoid travel to areas with Zika virus.

Practice good hygiene.

  • Wash hands often with soap and water.
  • Avoid CMV (cytomegalovirus) by not sharing cups and utensils with young children and not putting a child’s pacifier in your mouth.