Make a PACT for Prevention

Commit to Healthy Choices to Help Prevent Birth Defects

Plan ahead

  • Get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
Folic acid is a B vitamin. Women can get folic acid from fortified foods or supplements, or a combination of the two. If a woman has enough folic acid in her body at least one month before and during pregnancy, it can help prevent major birth defects of the developing brain and spine.

  • See a healthcare professional regularly.
If you are trying to have a baby or are just thinking about it, it id not too early to start getting ready for pregnancy. A woman should be sure to see her doctor when planning a pregnancy and start prenatal care as soon as she thinks that she is pregnant.

Avoid harmful substances.

  • Avoid alcohol at any time during pregnancy.
There is no known safe time or amount of alcohol to use during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. These disabilities are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

  • Avoid smoking cigarettes.
The dangers of smoking during pregnancy include preterm birth, certain birth defects such as cleft lip or palate, and infant death. Quitting smoking before getting pregnant is best.

  • Avoid marijuana and other "street drugs".
A woman who uses marijuana or other drugs during pregnancy can have a baby who is born preterm, of low birth weight, or has other health problems such as birth defects.

  • Prevent infections.
Some infections that a woman can get during pregnancy can be harmful to the developing baby and can even cause birth defects. Some easy steps to prevent infections include frequent hand-washing, cooking meat until its well done, and staying away from people who have an infection.

Choose a healthy lifestyle.

  • Keep diabetes under control.
Poor control of diabetes during pregnancy increases the chances for birth defects and other problems for the pregnancy.

  • Strive to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
A woman who is obese before pregnancy is at a higher risk for complications during pregnancy. Even if a woman is not actively planning a pregnancy, getting healthy can help boost her health and her mood. If a woman is overweight or obese, she should talk with her doctor about ways to reach a healthy weight before she gets pregnant.

Talk with your healthcare provider.

  • Talk to a healthcare provider about taking any medications.
We know that certain medications can cause serious birth defects if they are taken during pregnancy. Despite the limited safety data, some medications are needed to treat serious conditions. if a woman is pregnant or planning a pregnancy, she should not stop taking medications she needs or begin taking new medications without first talking with her doctor.

  • Talk to a healthcare provider about vaccinations (shots).
Most vaccinations are safe during pregnancy and some vaccinations, such as the flu vaccine and the Tdap vaccine are specifically recommended during pregnancy. Having the right vaccinations at the right time can help keep a woman and her baby healthy.
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