Birth Defects Prevention

January 2020 is Birth Defects Prevention Month
Best for You. Best for Baby.

National Birth Defects Prevention Month 2020 Toolkit

The theme for 2020 is, “Best for You. Best for Baby.” 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 by adopting healthy behaviors before and during pregnancy. Taking care of yourself and doing what’s best for you is also best for your baby!

5 Tips for Preventing Birth Defects:

Tip 1: Be sure to take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.

Folic acid is very important because it can help prevent some major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine. Our bodies use this B vitamin to make new cells. Folate is found naturally in certain fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Folic acid is found in fortified foods (called “enriched foods”), such as breads, pastas, and cereals. In addition to eating foods with folate from a varied diet (including foods like spinach and avocado), you can:

  • Take a vitamin that has folic acid in it every day
    • Most vitamins sold in the United States have the recommended amount of folic acid women need each day. Check the label on the bottle to be sure it contains 100% of the daily value (DV) of folic acid, which is 400 mcg.
  • Eat fortified foods
    • You can find folic acid in some breads, pasta, breakfast cereals, and corn masa flour.
    • Be sure to check the nutrition facts label and look for one that has “100%” next to folate.

Tip 2: Book a visit with your healthcare provider before stopping or starting any medicine.

  • Many women need to take medicine to stay healthy. If you are planning to become pregnant, discuss your current medicines with a healthcare provider, such as your doctor or pharmacist. Creating a treatment plan for your health condition before you are pregnant can help keep you and your developing baby healthy.

Tip 3: Become up-to-date with all vaccines, including the flu shot.

  • Vaccines help protect you and your developing baby against serious diseases. Get a flu shot and whopping cough vaccine (also called Tdap) during each pregnancy to help protect yourself and your baby.
    • Flu: You can get the flu shot before or during each pregnancy. Pregnant women with flu have an increased risk of serious problems for their pregnancy, including preterm birth.
    • Whooping Cough: You should get the Tdap vaccine near the end of each pregnancy (weeks 27 – 36).

Tip 4: Before you get pregnant, try to reach a healthy weight.

  • Obesity increases the risk for several serious birth defects and other pregnancy complications. If you are underweight, overweight, or have obesity, talk with your healthcare provider about ways to reach and maintain a healthy weight before you get pregnant. Focus on a lifestyle that includes healthy eating and regular physical activity.

Tip 5: Boost your health by avoiding harmful substances during pregnancy, such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

  • Alcohol: There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy or when trying to get pregnant. Alcohol can cause problems for a developing baby throughout pregnancy, so it’s important to stop drinking alcohol when you start trying to get pregnant.
  • Tobacco: Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, and other major health problems. Smoking during pregnancy can also harm the developing baby and can cause certain birth defects. Quitting smoking will help you feel better and provide a healthier environment for your baby.
  • Other drugs: Using certain drugs during pregnancy can cause health problems for a woman and her developing baby. If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant and can’t stop using drugs―please ask for help! A healthcare provider can help you with counseling, treatment, and other support services.

More information

MDHHS Birth Defects Education and Outreach Program 

Birth Defects

Best for You. Best For Baby. Tips to Share

Healthy Pregnancy

Treating for Two: Medicines and Pregnancy

Alcohol Use in Pregnancy

Tobacco Use and Pregnancy

Frequently Asked Questions about Folic Acid

NHBLI Sickle Cell Guidelines

healthy baby pamphletMore Prevention Resources

Resources are available through the Michigan Birth Defects Prevention Program and the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN). Please share these resources to help reach millions of women and decrease their risk for birth defects. (Resources in English, Spanish and Arabic.)

2019 Birth Defects Prevention Month ToolKit

2018 Prevent to Protect Infographic in Spanish

Michigan Birth Defects Prevention Program

Health & Nutrition Information for Pregnant & Breastfeeding Women – Great for tracking healthy habits!

Past NBDPN Resources