Preventing Birth Defects Begins Before ConceptionBirth_Defects_Prevention_Month_buttons_03_300x250

This January, National Birth Defects Prevention Month, let’s dedicate ourselves to educating our patients about the importance of preconception planning – and lifelong health.

According to the CDC, birth defects affect 1 in 33 babies in the US every year, and 18 babies die each day as a result of a birth defect. Some are caused by genetic factors such as Down syndrome or sickle cell anemia. Others are caused by certain chemicals or drugs, including alcohol and tobacco. Unfortunately, however, the cause of many birth defects is not yet known.

While not all birth defects are preventable, ob-gyns know the importance of becoming as healthy as possible before pregnancy. Most birth defects occur during the first trimester, a time when some women may not know that they are pregnant. In addition, the CDC estimates half of all US pregnancies are unplanned. This makes it critical for ob-gyns to encourage good health in all our patients of reproductive age.

How can women best care for themselves so they’ll be prepared for pregnancy?

Most importantly, women considering becoming pregnant should visit their ob-gyn for a preconception care check-up. These check-ups allow ob-gyns to discuss the patient’s risk factors for birth defects and how to best manage them, including family history, preexisting medical conditions, and current prescriptions or other medicines. It is also an opportunity to discuss ways to reduce the risk of infection during pregnancy, including immunizations.