January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. The 2017 theme is "Prevent to Protect: Prevent Infections for Baby’s Protection." We know that not all birth defects can be prevented. But, we also know that women can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by managing health conditions and adopting healthy behaviors before and during pregnancy. Some infections before and during pregnancy can hurt both you and your baby. They can cause birth defects and lifelong disabilities, such as hearing loss or learning problems. You can reduce your risk of getting an infection during pregnancy to help protect your baby by following the subsequent recommendations:
-Properly prepare food. Wash your hands before and after preparing food. Do not eat raw or runny eggs or raw sprouts. Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and cheese, and other foods made from them.
-Talk to your healthcare provider. Talk to your healthcare provider about what you can do to prevent infections such as Zika virus.Make sure that you are up-to-date with vaccinations (shots) before getting pregnant. Talk to your healthcare provider about vaccinations that you should receive during pregnancy.
-Protect yourself from animals and insects known to carry diseases such as Zika virus. Stay away from wild or pet rodents, live poultry, lizards and turtles, and do not clean out cat litter boxes while pregnant. When mosquitoes and ticks are active, wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants when outside. Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus (para-menthane-3,8-diol).
-Maintain good hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before preparing or eating foods, after handling raw foods, after being around or touching pets and other animals, and after changing diapers or wiping runny noses. Do not put a young child's food, utensils, drinking cups, or pacifiers in your mouth.
The National Birth Defects Prevention Network in collaboration with many state and local organizations are working together to share in a nationwide effort to raise awareness of birth defects, their causes and their impact. Become an active participant in National Birth Defects Prevention Month and continue your efforts throughout the year.
Learn more about the effect you can have on birth defects from the National Birth Defects Prevention Network.