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Reduce the Risk of Birth Defects

There are things you can do to ensure the healthiest possible pregnancy and reduce the risk of birth defects.

Preconception Health Care

Schedule a preconception visit with your doctor (or other clinician). Preconception health care is care that a woman of childbearing age receives before pregnancy. Interconception care is care between pregnancies.

Identifying Pre-existing Health Conditions

A preconception visit can help you and your doctor to identify and treat health conditions that may adversely affect your pregnancy. These conditions include:

Important Discussions

The visit gives your clinician the opportunity to discuss important subjects, such as:

Preconception visits are also an opportunity for your clinician to administer any missing vaccines and to make adjustments to any medications you are taking to ensure that they are the safest possible.

Family Health History

In addition to asking about your health history, your clinician will also ask about your partner’s and family’s health. If you or your partner have a history of birth defects or preterm births or if either of you has a high risk for a genetic disorder on the basis of family history, ethnic background, age, or history of multiple miscarriages, your clinician may suggest that you see a genetic counselor.

Folic Acid

Your clinician will suggest that you take 0.4 mg of folic acid daily to prevent certain types of birth defects. A higher dose of folic acid may be recommended in some situations, especially if you have already had a child with a certain kind of birth defect or if you are taking certain medications.

Last Updated
Adapted from Pediatric Environmental Health, 3rd Edition (Copyright © American Academy of Pediatrics 2011)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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