6 steps you can take to have a healthy pregnancy in 2021

January 4, 2021

If you are planning to become pregnant in 2021, protecting yourself and making healthy choices are more important now more than ever as we continue to face the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. January is Birth Defects Prevention Month. Here are some tips to help you have a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Birth defects are structural changes that affect one or more parts of the body, like the heart, brain or foot. They develop most often during the first three months of pregnancy, when a baby’s organs are forming. Birth defects can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops and how it functions. Common birth defects include congenital heart defectscleft lip and left palate and spina bifida.

Your genetics, behaviors and social and environmental
factors can impact the risk of birth defects. Unfortunately, not all birth
defects can be prevented. However, there are things you can do to increase your
chance of having a healthy, full-term pregnancy and baby – and this month is
the perfect time to learn about them.

Here are six actions you can take: 

  1. Protect
    yourself from COVID-19. 
    Stay safe and help prevent the spread of
    COVID-19 by wearing a face mask and practicing social distancing. Remember
    to check for new
    guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    to
    stay safe.  
  2. Be
    sure to take 400 micrograms (mcg) of 
    folic
    acid
     every day. Before becoming pregnant and
    during pregnancy, take a multivitamin containing 400 micrograms (mcg) of
    folic acid every day. Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy
    can help prevent neural tube defects in your baby. Eat foods that contain
    folate, the natural form of folic acid, such as lentils, green leafy
    vegetables, black beans, orange juice and foods made from fortified grain
    products (some breads and breakfast cereals) and fortified corn masa flour
    (corn tortillas, tacos).
  3. Get
    pre-pregnancy
    checkup
    . Talk to your health care provider about
    managing your health conditions and creating a treatment plan before each
    pregnancy.
  4. Stay
    up-to-date on 
    vaccines. Speak
    with your health care provider about the vaccines you need during each pregnancy
    to help protect yourself and your baby against serious diseases. Ask your
    health care provider about when the COVID-19 vaccine will be available for
    you. 
  5. Before
    you get pregnant, try to reach a 
    healthy
    weight
    . Being overweight or underweight can affect
    your fertility. During pregnancy, obesity can increase the risk of having
    a baby with a birth defect and other complications. Talk to your health
    care provider about how to get to a healthy weight before getting
    pregnant. Maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes eating healthy foods
    and regular physical activity. 
  6. Avoid
    substances like tobacco, alcohol and drugs during pregnancy. 
    Smoking
    cigarettes can cause certain birth defects, like cleft lip and palate.
    Alcohol can cause problems for a developing baby throughout pregnancy, so
    it’s important to stop drinking alcohol when you start trying to get
    pregnant. And using opioids while pregnant can cause serious problems for
    your baby, like preterm birth and drug withdrawal called neonatal
    abstinence syndrome (NAS). Women should consult their physician before
    stopping or changing any prescribed medication. 

To learn more about preventing
birth defects, watch this video to
prepare for pregnancy and your baby. You also can join our Twitter Chat on Jan.
26, 2021, at 2 p.m. ET
by following @MarchofDimes on
Twitter and using the hashtag #Best4YouBest4Baby to ask questions.