January is Birth Defect Prevention Awareness Month and CDC (Center for Disease Control) has organized some facts that I’d like to share with you.

Unfortunately every 4.5 minutes a baby is born with a defect which can have serious negative effects on the baby’s development and ability to function. Although some defects can’t be prevented, many of them can.

Most birth defects occur during the first three months of pregnancy when important organs are developing. From 6 to 8 weeks of pregnancy is a critical period called organogenesis when the brain and nervous system are developing. Even if you’re given a prescription from the emergency department, always ask your OBGYN provider if it safe to take before actually getting it filled.

Neural tube defects such as Spina Bifida or a cleft palate can be prevented by taking folic acid but remember the best time to take it is actually before you become pregnant. Alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. Although some medical studies claim that a drinking a glass of wine is okay during meals, other studies dispute this so when in doubt, “cut it out” meaning any potential behavior that could harm your baby.

Obesity can have a profound effect on pregnancy and yes, can even put you at risk for birth defects. Where there is obesity, there is usually diabetes associated with it and therein lies the problem. Many obese women do not know that they have diabetes or it becomes obvious during pregnancy when it is essentially too late to do anything about it. If the glucose (sugar) is not controlled, birth defects can happen that involve the baby’s brain. We all struggle with weight issues but we must conquer them in order to improve our chances of having a healthy pregnancy.

If you’re pregnant and have acne, now is not the time to take a medicine called isotretinoin because it causes hearing problems in babies.

Birth defects such as cleft lip or clubfoot can be seen on an ultrasound but heart or hearing problems require special tests.

If you modify your lifestyle and diet before you can become pregnant, your chances of having a healthy baby improve tremendously. Remember, a healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen. It takes a smart mother who knows what to do.