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Healthy You, Healthy Baby

February 17, 2021

About one in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect. While all birth defects can’t be prevented, it helps to remember that what’s best for your health is also best for your baby. If your future plans include pregnancy, you can increase your chances of having a healthy baby by committing to a healthier lifestyle.

Get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Folic acid is a B vitamin and enough of it in your body at least one month before—and during pregnancy—helps prevent brain and spinal birth defects. Add at least two of these three options to your diet: folic acid-rich food, fortified foods (look for folate on nutrition labels) or folic acid supplements.

See your doctor before, during and after pregnancy. It’s never too early to talk to your doctor about your pregnancy plans. Use checklists to help with your health goals. As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, make an appointment with your doctor to start prenatal care.

Talk to your doctor about your medications. Certain medications taken during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects. If you’re planning for pregnancy, or you’re pregnant, talk to your doctor about prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and any dietary or herbal products you’re taking.

If you’re trying to become pregnant or you’re pregnant, stop drinking alcohol. There is no safe amount of alcohol and no safe time to drink during pregnancy. All types of alcohol are equally harmful, this includes wine and beer. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth and a range of lifelong physical, behavioral and intellectual disabilities.

Quit smoking. Smoking during pregnancy can cause preterm birth, birth defects such as cleft lip or cleft palate, and infant death. Even being around tobacco smoke can put you and your baby at risk for problems. If you’re pregnant, quitting as early as possible can still help your baby—it’s never too late!

Stop using marijuana and illicit drugs. Using marijuana or other drugs during pregnancy can cause preterm birth, low-birth weight and other health problems. There are no studies that point to safe levels of marijuana use during pregnancy, so if you’re planning for pregnancy or you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t use marijuana. Talk to your doctor if you use marijuana for medical reasons.

Prevent infections. Some infections a woman can get during pregnancy can harm a developing baby—even cause birth defects. Learn more about infection prevention by reading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 10 Tips for Preventing Infections Before and During Pregnancy.

Try to not get overheated, and treat fevers quickly. Overheating can increase a woman’s chances of having a baby with a neural tube defect. Overheating caused by exposure to excessive temperatures—such as soaking in a hot tub—or fever can increase your core temperature.

If you have diabetes, keep it under control. Poor control of diabetes during pregnancy increases the chances for birth defects and other problems. Learn more about diabetes and pregnancy.

Try to reach or maintain a healthy weight. A body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher before pregnancy puts a woman at a higher risk for complications during pregnancy, and obesity can be a factor in serious birth defects. If you’re overweight or obese, talk with your doctor about healthy ways to reach a safer weight before you get pregnant.

Stay up to date with your vaccines. Most vaccinations are safe during pregnancy and some, such as the Tdap (adult tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis vaccine) and the flu vaccine, are specifically recommended. Having the right vaccines at the right time can keep you and your baby healthy. Ask your doctor about which vaccines are best for you.




This feature story is provided by the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Communications. It can be reused without permission.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


The department, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.

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