Birth defects affect one in every 33 babies in the United States each year. Prenatal care is very important in developing a happy and healthy baby, but it is just as important to live a healthy lifestyle before conception. Here are some tips to consider before and during your pregnancy:

Make a plan:

Even if you have not thought about having a baby recently, it may be something you want to consider later. Develop a plan and goals for yourself and your baby to help you stay on track with everything you need during your pregnancy.

Speak with your doctor:

If you are considering pregnancy, you should visit your primary health care provider or OBGYN to discuss pregnancy risks and preconception health care. Your doctor can help you create a plan of action for the duration of your pregnancy. Discuss with your doctor any medical conditions you are experiencing that my affect your tiny tot. Some health risks to consider discussing are sexually transmitted diseases, diabetes, thyroid disease, seizure disorders, high blood pressure, arthritis, eating disorders, and chronic diseases. Be sure to discuss your family history to help determine if you are more susceptible to any diseases or conditions.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle:

Your lifestyle behaviors may also affect your baby. Before considering pregnancy, you should reach and maintain a healthy weight. Exercising regularly and taking prenatal vitamins will help your body prepare for pregnancy. Also, consider taking Folic Acid along with your regular vitamins. Folic Acid helps create healthy new cells in your body, as well as help prevent major birth defects. The CDC recommends women take 400 micrograms of Folic Acid every day. If you smoke, use “street drugs,” or drink excessive amounts of alcohol, you should stop immediately. Seek help if you cannot stop on your own. These activities may harm your baby and cause birth defects.

Pay attention to your surroundings:

Exposure to substances such as synthetic chemicals, metals, fertilizer, bug spray, and animal feces may affect your reproductive health and ability to produce healthy children. Instead, use non-toxic materials and personal care products and be sure to avoid any substances that could be harmful to you and your baby.

Preconception health care is not just for women:

Encourage your partner to live a healthy lifestyle as well. Having two healthy parents increases the chance that your baby will be healthy as well. Men and women may follow some of the same preconception tips, such as creating a reproductive life plan; preventing and treating any sexually transmitted diseases; stopping smoking and drinking excessively; avoiding toxic substances; and avoid using any drugs that may be harmful to the body. Factors such as type 1 diabetes, smoking cigarettes, heavy alcohol use, obesity, age, and diseases may affect a man’s ability to create healthy sperm.

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