National Birth Defects Prevention Month

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month. The theme for 2017 is “Prevent to Protect: Prevent Infections for Baby’s Protection.” We know that not all birth defects can be prevented. But, we also know that women can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by reducing their risk of getting an infection during pregnancy.

Properly Prepare Food

Pregnant women and their babies are at increased risk of contracting the bacteria and viruses that cause foodborne illnesses. Foodborne illness during pregnancy can cause serious health problems for your baby, including prematurity and stillbirth. Some foodborne illnesses, such as listeriosis and toxoplasmosis, can infect your baby even if you do not have symptoms of foodborne illness. Make safe food handling a priority for you and your baby while pregnant.

Talk to Your Healthcare ProviderBirth Defects Prevention

Whether you are planning to become pregnant or not, talk to your healthcare provider about reproductive and preconception health care. Talk to your healthcare provider about what you can do to prevent infections, including Zika virus and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs or STIs) before and during pregnancy, make sure that you are up-to-date with vaccinations (shots) before getting pregnant, and talk to your healthcare provider about vaccinations that you should receive during pregnancy.

Protect Yourself From Animals and Insects Known to Carry Diseases

Pregnant women have to be careful about how they handle and care for animals. Pets can carry bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can cause several infections that can harm you and your baby, including: toxoplasmosis, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) and salmonellosis.

Pregnant women should also take steps to reduce their risk of being bitten by a mosquito. Mosquitos can carry several infections, including: West Nile virus, Dengue virus, malaria, and Zika virus. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly a sign of incomplete brain development.

Maintain Good Hygiene

Hygiene refers to the activities that help prevent the spread of infections. Personal hygiene can include hand washing, bathing and brushing your teeth. Maintaining good hygiene is one of the simplest steps that women can take to prevent infections. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not maintaining good hygiene, including: salmonellosis, norovirus, adenovirus, and hand, foot, and mouth disease.

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