President's Rx: Birth Defects

One in 33 babies is born with a birth defect, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many birth defects happen early in pregnancy, sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant.

Birth defects are abnormal conditions that happen before or at the time of birth.

Some birth defects are mild - like an extra finger or a cleft lip. Some are very serious -like a heart defect. They can cause physical, mental or medical problems.

The cause of most birth defects is still a mystery. However, studies have shown some birth defects like Down syndrome or sickle cell anemia, are caused by genetic factors. Certain drugs, medicines or chemicals may cause others.

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

o Take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day

o Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs

o Keep hands clean by washing them often with soap and water.

o Talk with a health care professional about any medical problems and medications

o Eat a healthy, balanced diet

o Avoid unpasteurized milk products

o Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat.

o Get early prenatal care and go to every appointment

Thanks to special care after birth and newborn screening tests, babies born with birth defects can live long, healthy lives.

For more information about how you can help prevent birth defects, visit the March of Dimes website.