Birth Defects - Before Pregnancy


Preconception health is a woman's health before becoming pregnant. It is very important for a woman to be as healthy as possible before conception. This helps lower the chance of prematurity, low birth weight and birth defects in a baby.


Healthy life choices every woman can make include:


      Take 400 micrograms (400 mcg or 0.4 mg) of folic acid daily.

     Eat a balanced diet.

      Get regular exercise.

      Live alcohol and drug free.

      Eat fully cooked meat.



CDC folic acid poster

Plan pregnancy to give you, your baby and your family the best future


     Wait at least 18 months after delivery before starting another pregnancy.

     Practice safe sex by using condoms. This helps protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STD).

Strive to be the healthiest you by

     Having regular medical and dental check-ups.

     Managing health problems like depression, diabetes, seizures, PKU or other chronic conditions.

     Asking your health care provider if the medications you take are safe at the time of conception
    and during early pregnancy. This includes over-the-counter, prescription, home remedies and
    herbal supplements.

     Keeping immunizations up to date to protect against infections.


More tips for a healthy you and baby

tips 4 mom poster     Avoid harmful work-related and household substances such as
    insecticides, lead, mercury and strong chemicals.

     Avoid using hot tubs and saunas.


     Avoid exposure to used cat litter, pet mice, rats, hamsters and

    guinea pigs, all may spread infection.


     Know you and your partner's medical and family history. Share this
    information with your health care provider. 


     Protect yourself against domestic violence by finding a safe place to live, asking for help and
    seeking emotional support. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE if
    you need help.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are 100% preventable. If a woman does not drink alcohol while she is pregnant,
her child cannot have a FASD.


When a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy, so does her unborn baby. There is NO safe time or amount of
alcohol to drink while pregnant. Alcohol affects brain development and can cause birth defects, low birth weight,
prematurity, social, behavior and learning problems. Some physical characteristics of FASDs include: abnormal facial
features, small head size, shorter than average height and problems with heart, kidney or bones.


Women who are thinking of becoming pregnant should stop drinking alcohol. Since almost half of all pregnancies
are unplanned, any woman capable of becoming pregnant should talk to her doctor about how to avoid exposing

her baby to alcohol. If a pregnant woman has already used alcohol during pregnancy, she should stop right away 


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