(CBS4)– January is Birth Defects Awareness Month. According to the CDC, one in 20 babies in Colorado are born with a major birth defect. While not all can be prevented, there are steps that parents-to-be can take to increase the chances of having a healthy baby.
Dr. Susan Ulmer is an OBGYN with Women’s Care of Colorado at Sky Ridge. She says some of the most common birth defects are heart defects, cleft lip/palate, limb defects and down syndrome. Dr. Ulmer says there are things women can do to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
“One of the best ways women can do that is just eating healthier themselves and practicing a healthy lifestyle, getting themselves to a healthy body weight, maintaining a well-balanced diet, and making sure that any of their underlying illnesses like diabetes or asthma are well-managed and well-controlled,” says Dr. Ulmer.
She also stresses the importance of a pre-natal vitamin.
“One of the elements of a prenatal vitamin, in particular folic acid, actually has a lot of benefit in preventing things like neural tube defects so things like spina bifida or a hole somewhere along the spine and having those important elements on board before you get pregnant can actually help prevent birth defects later on.”
Other things can also put your baby at risk like tobacco, alcohol, and even environmental exposure. Dr. Ulmer says family history can also play a role.
“We do offer preconception appointments with our patients. We talk about certain things that might be red flags,” says Dr. Ulmer. “We can screen for those things and tailor their care to prevent those.”