Preventing Birth Defects
Many birth defects can happen early in pregnancy, sometimes before a woman knows she is pregnant. Not all birth
defects can be prevented, but you can increase your chance of having a healthy baby.
Below are some tips and resources on how you can get ready for and have a healthy pregnancy and baby.
- Take a vitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. Folic acid can help protect your
unborn baby from birth defects of the brain and spinal cord called neural tube defects. Neural
tube defects can occur during the first weeks of pregnancy, even before you know you are pregnant.
- Foods with folic acid include: okra, pinto beans, navy beans, mustard greens, kale,
spinach, chicken liver, beef liver, orange juice, asparagus, broccoli, avocado, green peas, cauliflower, tomato
juice, peanuts, and cantaloupe.
- Plan Your Pregnancy. It is important for you to be as healthy as possible before you become
pregnant. Chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure can increase your risk of problems
during your pregnancy if they are not well controlled.
- Before becoming pregnant, schedule a check up and talk to your health care provider about ways
to get ready for a healthy pregnancy.
- Schedule an appointment for prenatal care as soon as you learn you are pregnant! This is the
best way to avoid serious problems. If you need assistance in finding a prenatal care provider, call the Care
Line at 1-855-472-3432.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet. While you are pregnant, you are feeding yourself and your growing
baby. Your baby depends on you to choose good food for both of you. The food you eat gives nutrients that you
- Eat less of foods like hamburgers, fried chicken, pizza, French fries, snack chips, soda pop, pastries and
- Eat more of these foods:
- Fruit Snacks like dried apples, dates, raisins, prunes, pineapple, apricots, peaches and strawberries.
- Veggies like raw carrots, celery, broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, peppers and cherry tomatoes.
- Snacks like whole grain crackers, cheese, unbuttered popcorn, unsalted pretzels, trail mix and nuts.
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco and street drugs. Every time a pregnant woman takes a drink, smokes or
uses a drug, her unborn baby does, too.
- Drinking any type of alcohol (beer, wine, liquor) can be harmful.
- Alcohol, tobacco and drugs can cause a baby to be born too small, developmentally delayed or more likely to
be sick. They can harm developing organs like the brain and heart. Only take medications that your health
care provider has said you may take.
- For free help quitting smoking, call the S.C. Tobacco Quit line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
Other Resources include:
Sources: CDC; Capital Area Healthy Start Coalition * Racial Disparity Task Force for Infant Health * 2110 South Adams
Street, Suite B * Tallahassee, FL 32301