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My Pregnancy

Reducing Risk of Birth Defects 

First Trimester | Second Trimester | Third Trimester | Postpartum 

A birth defect is a condition that is present at birth.  Some birth defects can be seen right after the baby is born, such as a clubfoot or extra fingers or toes.  Special test may be needed to find others, such as heart defects or hearing loss. Some may not be identified until later in life.
Birth defect can be caused by genes that can be passed from parents to children. Others result from a problem with chromosomes.  A small number of birth defects are caused by exposure during pregnancy to certain medications, infections and chemicals. For many defects, the cause is not known.
Most birth defects cannot be prevented because their cause is not known. However, you may be able to decrease your risk by taking certain steps:
  • See your doctor BEFORE getting pregnant
  • Know your risk factors
  • Take a daily multivitamin for women before and a prenatal vitamin during the pregnancy
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Use medication wisely
  • Take care of medical conditions before pregnancy
  • Do not use alcohol, marijuana, illegal drugs or prescription drugs for non-medical reasons
  • Prevent, screen and use vaccines to prevent infections that could affect a developing baby
  • Limit your exposure to mercury by not eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish.  You do not have to avoid all fish during pregnancy; the ones mentioned are considered to have higher levels of mercury that can affect the development of your baby.
  • Avoid exposure to lead. Lead can be found in old paint, construction materials, Alternative medications, and items from foreign countries, such as jewelry and pottery.
  • Avoid taking high levels of vitamin A. Doses that are less than 10, 000 international Units/ day are considered safe.
The following risk factors for birth defects should be understood and with the help of your doctor, discussed and managed:
  • Increased maternal age (being older than 37-38 years old)
  • A family history of birth defects
  • A previous child with a birth defect
  • Medication use early in pregnancy (don't stop medication appropriately prescribed before talking with your doctor)
  • Medical conditions like diabetes and obesity
  • Use of recreational and addicted drugs or alcohol