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Can birth defects be prevented?

Dr. Diana K. Blythe, MD
Pediatrician

Some birth defects can be prevented, but some cannot. If you are trying to get pregnant, start your prenatal vitamin with folic acid now. If you are already pregnant, get early prenatal care, continue your prenatal vitamin and stay away from alcohol and illegal drugs. If you are on prescription medications, make sure your obstetrician knows what they are and considers them safe.

Not all birth defects can be prevented. But, a woman can increase her own chances of having a healthy baby, by managing health conditions and adopting healthy behaviors before becoming pregnant. This is important because many birth defects happen very early during pregnancy, sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant.

Here are some steps a woman can take to get ready for a healthy pregnancy:

  • Take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
  • Don't drink alcohol at any time during pregnancy.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Don't use "street drugs."
  • Talk to a health care provider about taking any medications.
  • Prevent infections.
  • Talk to your doctor about vaccinations (shots). 
  • Keep diabetes under control.
  • Reach and maintain a healthy weight. 
  • See a health care professional regularly. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.