By Robin Clutters

(CBS4)- The CDC recognizes January as National Birth Defects Awareness Month, a time to highlight efforts to help those living with these conditions. According to the March of Dimes, birth defects usually develop during the first three months of pregnancy.

“A lot of different things can cause birth defects. Some of them are related to things we are exposed to whether it’s things we are putting into our body like medicines, or habits such as drinking alcohol or smoking. There are some genetic components that can cause birth defects, as well as deficits in nutrition of the vitamin stores in our body,” says Dr. Beth Carewe with Premier OB/GYN at Rose Medical Center.

There are things women can do to prevent birth defects. That includes taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid. Dr. Carewe recommends a prenatal vitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid. She says ideally you will take that vitamin three months before conceiving, but even taking them for one month can decrease the chance of birth defects.

Carewe also recommends seeing your doctor to discuss any medications or health conditions you may have prior to conceiving.

“I want to empower women to understand they can do a lot before pregnancy to prevent birth defects. Things like optimizing their health, making sure they are at a healthy weight, getting adequate nutrition, and exercising frequently.”

Robin Clutters