There are many ways that you can prepare for a baby, from reading baby-care books to researching strollers. Another important way you can prepare for a healthy little one is to connect with your physician about possible birth defects and how to prevent them. Taniesha Buffin, M.D., Utica Park Clinic OB/GYN in Broken Arrow, said the most common birth defects include neural tube defects (NTDs), heart defects, cleft lip/cleft palate and limb defects.
“The causes of birth defects vary,” said Buffin. “They can include genetics, infections and drug/chemical/radiation exposure. Prevention of birth defects entails getting enough folic acid before and during pregnancy. Also, being aware of preexisting risk factors by way of prenatal counseling can help decrease the risk of some birth defects. Your obstetrician or health care provider can make recommendations for other preventive measures.”
Folic acid is a B-vitamin and is essential for proper cell growth. It helps the body produce new cells, which can benefit both you and your baby. It also helps prevent cancer by maintaining normal cellular DNA.
Folic acid use is most effective before conception to prevent NTDs - birth defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord. NTDs occur in about 3,000 pregnancies each year in the United States. These types of birth defects can cause serious health risks for babies, including spina bifida and anencephaly. According to the National Birth Defects Prevention Network, folic acid can prevent up to 70% of serious birth defects.
Because NTDs develop within the first few weeks of pregnancy, it is important that you have enough folic acid in your system prior to becoming pregnant. Start taking 400mcg of it daily at least three months prior to conception. If an unplanned pregnancy occurs (almost half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned), start as soon as you know you are pregnant.
In addition to this supplement, you should seek out dietary sources of folic acid, such as leafy green veggies, dried beans and citrus foods.
“Your best tool concerning birth defects is a good relationship with your obstetrician or health care provider,” said Buffin. “Screening prior to pregnancy can help initiate practices to decrease known risks. Also, adequate prenatal care can help identify risks and opportunities for prevention and/or early diagnosis.”
Buffin welcomes new patients and accepts most insurance plans. For more information or to request an appointment, call 918-394-2229.
Utica Park Clinic also offers OB/GYN care in Tulsa, Bixby, Jenks, Owasso, Claremore, Cushing, Okmulgee and Pryor. Call 918-579-DOCS (3627) for more information or you can request an appointment online.