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Make a PACT to Have a Healthy Baby

They say every baby is perfect to its loving parents. When my own son was born almost three years ago, I was convinced no cuter baby existed on earth (to be honest, I still am.) But my son was lucky - he was born full-term and 100% healthy, except for a dermal cyst above his eye that had to be removed with surgery when he was six months old. 

His cyst was mostly a cosmetic problem and didn’t rise to the level of a “birth defect,” which was good news for his worried parents. A baby is born with a birth defect every 4.5 minutes in the US. Birth defects may be as obvious as a cleft palate or missing or extra fingers or as hard to see as an atrioventricular septal defect - a hole in the heart. They cause one in five deaths in the first year of life (the most deaths are caused by premature delivery) and they’re also estimated to rack up hospital-related costs of more than $2.6 billion each year.

Birth defects are caused by a variety of different factors that can lead to conditions forming at any stage of pregnancy, but particularly in the first trimester. Genetic inheritance, individual behavior and environmental factors can all work together to result in birth defects.

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, an effort to raise awareness of how frequently birth defects occur and what can be done to prevent them. This year, the theme is “Making Healthy Choices to Prevent Birth Defects: Make a PACT for Prevention.”

The 'P' In PACT stands for planning ahead. It is best to start preparing for a healthy pregnancy prior to conception. Women should ensure they have an adequate intake of folate, a b-vitamin that prevents neural tube defects, and should ask their doctors if any medications they are taking are safe for pregnancy. Since most birth defects occur during the first three months of pregnancy when the baby’s organs are developing, being prepared before pregnancy is a vital part of the PACT to prevent birth defects.

The ‘A’ stands for avoiding harmful substances. This includes drugs such as alcohol and tobacco, which should never be used during pregnancy, and harmful substances that can be found in the environment or home. If your job involves exposure to fumes or toxic metals, make a plan to protect your pregnancy as soon as possible. 

The ‘C’ stands for choosing a healthy lifestyle. "A mom's health during pregnancy has a direct impact on her baby's health," says Dr. Siobhan Dolan, medical advisor to the March of Dimes. "There are many things a woman can do to help give her baby the best opportunity to be born healthy." These include maintaining a healthy diet and healthy weight and continuing to treat any long-term conditions such as diabetes.

As well as choosing a healthy path, regular chiropractic care for newborns may help to keep them safer and healthier from any ailments that could potentially harm their immune systems, and their skeletal structure.Talking with your doctor of chiropractor about how your baby can benefit from regular chiropractic care may help to ensure full health and strength.

The ’T’ stands for talking to your doctor. Regular prenatal appointments can help you ask questions and get answers that will help with planning ahead, avoiding harmful substances and choosing a healthy lifestyle. 

Dr. Dolan says “even if you’re not pregnant, but want children in the future, resolve to give them a healthy start in life.” Remember PACT to prevent birth defects, and enjoy your pregnancy and birth!

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