Most expected parents worry about the health of their unborn babies. In the United States, around 1 out of every 33 babies are reported to have born with a birth defect. Such birth defects can impact how your newborn will look and/or function.
While some birth defects such as cleft lips are noticeable, other defects such a congenital heart defects require a diagnostic test. Birth defects occur while your baby is growing and developing in your womb.
What are the steps that expectant parents can take to keep their unborn baby healthy?
- Give up alcohol during pregnancy
- Give up smoking during pregnancy
- Street drugs or any other kind of drug such as Marijuana is strictly prohibited during pregnancy
- Prevent infections
- Only consume pregnancy safe medications
- Start taking Folate supplements
- Maintain and follow a healthy lifestyle
Tips to Keep Your Unborn Baby Healthy
Here are a few important tips to follow.
Follow a healthy lifestyle
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy is of utmost importance. Uncontrolled diabetes and obesity both increase the risk of birth defects.
Maintain a healthy weight
Before trying to conceive, women with diabetes are suggested to maintain a healthy weight. During pregnancy, such women are also advised to exercise, take the doctor prescribes medications, monitor blood sugar, and limit weight gain.
Some of the birth defects among newborn babies that were born to mothers with diabetes are blue and mottled skin, lethargy, puffiness, jaundice, and congenital heart disease.
Obese women are also suggested to lose weight before conceiving using exercise, diet, and several lifestyle modifications.
Give up smoking completely
You should quit smoking completely when you are trying to get pregnant and also while you are pregnant. In case you didn’t stop smoking while you were trying to get pregnant, it is not too late to quit while you’re pregnant. If you are becoming a mother after a miscarriage, you should be more careful.
Smoking can cause various adverse effects in your unborn baby such as cleft lip, preterm labor, limited intrauterine growth, tremors, and increased muscle tone. The more a pregnant woman smokes the higher is the risk of birth defects in the unborn baby. Vaping during pregnancy is also equally harmful.
Start taking Folate supplements
Folic acid or folate is a kind of vitamin B. The requirement for Folate during pregnancy is about 5 to 10 times higher. Folate deficiency is hard to diagnose during pregnancy and well-nourished women also experience it.
Consume lots of green and leafy vegetables because they tend to be high in Folate. Doctors recommend around 400 MCG of folate every day to pregnant women. If you have a poor diet then you will need even higher folate. Various birth defects including anencephaly and spina bifida may be caused due to folate deficiency.
Abstain from Street drugs during your pregnancy
Street drugs such as Marijuana, cocaine heroin are prohibited during pregnancy. Use of such drugs during pregnancy can lead to low birth weight, preterm delivery as well as other birth defects.
Some research shows a correlation between the use of marijuana and other drugs during pregnancy with neurodevelopmental problems that are exhibited later in the life of the child.
Such problems include impulsivity, abstract visual reasoning, and hyperactivity. There is no safe level of street drug consumption during pregnancy. You should consult your doctor for an alternative if you use marijuana for any medical condition. Husbands also need to care for their pregnant wives.
Prevent infectious diseases
Certain infectious diseases during pregnancy can cause birth defects. As a pregnant woman, you need to be more cautious about staying away from people that have infections. You also need to maintain proper handwashing practices.
Doctors always recommend seasonal flu vaccines for pregnant women as such vaccines will protect women from infections that may lead to birth defects.
Some infectious causes diseases that you need to be wary of are
There exists limit limited information about the effects of coronavirus on pregnancy. Certain studies show that unborn babies are not adversely affected if the mother contracts COVID-19 in the third trimester.
However, the effects of COVID-19 in the earlier trimester and the long term effects of the virus are unknown. Pregnant women are considered to be at a higher risk and as a result, you need to wash your hands frequently and stay at home to avoid contracting this infectious disease.
- Zika virus
This one causes birth defects in babies who are born to infected mothers. The babies are often reported to have born with microcephaly and other brain abnormalities.
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
This is one of the most common causes of infection among newborns. Even though a lot of women have antibodies, a primary infection will increase the risk of CMV in the newborn. This virus can cause birth defects and also endanger the unborn baby. One out of every five babies that are born with CMV infection reported to be sick at birth or developed long term problems.
Abstain from alcohol
One of the leading causes of birth defects is the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. You should stop consuming alcohol while you try to get pregnant and also abstain from it during your pregnancy. There is no amount of alcohol that can be deemed safe for consumption during pregnancy.
All the different kinds of alcohol, including wines and beers, are equally harmful. Remember that when you, as a pregnant woman, drink alcohol your baby drinks alcohol too.
Alcohol has the potential of interfering with fetal development and it can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome which leads to abnormalities such as restricted intrauterine growth, microcephaly, joint anomalies, congenital heart defect, poor coordination, and intellectual disability.
It can also cause damage to your baby’s nervous system and it can impair the proper development of the nerve cells. Alcohol can also kill the nerves through the process of Apoptosis.
Check your prescription medications
If you consume any medicines for pre-existing mental or physical health problems, you need to check your medications to prevent any teratogenic effect in your newborn baby. Various birth defects due to teratogenic effects include malformations, toxicities, neonatal toxicities, and limited intrauterine growth.
Certain medicines, chemicals, and drugs tend to increase the risk of birth defects. During the first 15 and 60 days of your first trimester, your fetus will be most susceptible to the harmful effects of drugs known as teratogens which can result in severe birth defects. During this period various major organs start to develop and they get affected by the teratogens.
Genetics can also play a significant role in the health of your unborn baby. Sometimes teratogens and genetics wreak damage together. Nowadays environmental factors are also important. You need to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle and keep up with your prenatal appointments with your doctor so that your unborn baby is healthy.
FAQs about to Keep healthy your unborn Baby
1. Will my unborn baby be harmed if I keep working?
Your job role and work environment both play a big role in your pregnancy. You should stop working if your job exposes you to a harmful environment which involves radiation, copper, mercury or Lead. They can be harmful to the health of your unborn baby. If you have a strenuous job where you need to be active, you need to stop working within the first few months or weeks of pregnancy.
Desk jobs tend to not be as harmful as the other jobs but you should never keep your computer rested on your uterus or stomach. Your pregnancy and any other complex complications will also play a role. If you are at any kind of risk of preterm labor then you should stop working and go on bed rest.
2. Is exercising during pregnancy going to be harmful to my unborn baby?
Doctors generally suggest moderate but regular exercise to pregnant women unless there are any severe complications in the pregnancy. Exercise will help you to ease some of your discomfort. Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. If you are too tired to exercise then go for long walks for 40 to 50 minutes.
In case you were not exercising before your pregnancy, don’t start exercising heavily on the first day. Don’t do exercises that can lead to overheating such as running and Jumping Jacks. It is also important to stop doing contact sports like Basketball soccer so that your unborn baby is not harmed in any way.
3. Can sexual intercourse cause harm to my baby?
Unless your doctor advises you against it, it is perfectly safe to have sex during pregnancy and it won’t cause any harm to your unborn baby. However, as your baby bump grows you may need to adjust your position to prevent discomfort and accidents.
4. Can the cat harm?
It is perfectly safe to cuddle with your cat during pregnancy. However, you should not be the one to clean the litter box of your cat because it could cause disease which may lead to birth defects in your unborn baby.
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Mother of Two children. I’m a former teacher with a background in child development and a passion for Good parenting. I understand child development and know how to develop activities to help children learn and grow. Spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family, reading, and volunteering in my community.