How You Can Prevent Birth Defects During Pregnancy
January is Birth Defect Prevention Awareness Month, and although all birth defects cannot be prevented, there are a few important steps you can take during pregnancy to help prevent some common birth defects.
- Make sure you’re getting enough folic acid. Having enough folic acid in your system at least one month before pregnancy and throughout your pregnancy can help prevent birth defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. You can get folic acid from certain foods, supplements, or a combination of the two.
- Prevent infections. Some infections that a woman might get during pregnancy can be harmful enough that they can cause birth defects. You can prevent your risk of infections by practicing proper hand hygiene, avoiding contact with sources of infection, and getting recommended vaccines such as the COVID-19, flu, and TDAP vaccines.
- Have proper prenatal care. It’s important to begin seeing a provider early on in your pregnancy and to continue your appointments throughout your pregnancy to ensure both you and the baby are healthy.
- Talk to your provider before taking medications. While there are pregnancy safe medications, some medications can cause serious birth defects if taken during a pregnancy. If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, talk to your provider before about stopping or starting medications.
- Keep diabetes under control. Unmanaged diabetes can increase the risk of birth defects as well as other issues during pregnancy. Seeing your provider regularly, monitoring your blood sugar levels, eating healthy, being physically active and taking insulin as directed are all steps you can take to manage your diabetes.
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs. All of these substances can pass to the developing baby through the umbilical cord and cause a wide range of issues such as disabilities, miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight, and birth defects like a cleft lip or cleft palate. There is no safe amount of these substances during pregnancy.
- Prevent overheating and treat fevers quickly. Overheating, either by a fever or exposure to high temperatures such as getting in a hot tub or too much time outside in the heat, can increase a woman’s chance of having a baby with certain birth defects.
Tips to Stick to Your New Year’s Resolutions
We all have the best intentions for our New Year’s Resolutions each year, but often, by February or even mid-January, we’re already having trouble sticking with them. We want to eat healthier, work out more, or even make more time for self-care and our mental health–all important goals–but we just can’t seem to do it after the optimism of the New Year has worn off. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It is possible to set goals and resolutions for yourself that you can stick to, and the tips below will help you do that.
- Set a goal that’s specific. Rather than saying you want to work out more, give yourself a more specific goal, like working out at least four times a week instead. A more specific goal is easier to follow through on because it doesn’t seem overwhelming, and it’s also easier to track.
- Tell others about your resolution. Telling others about your goals and plan for how to accomplish them helps make you more accountable. You’re much less likely to quit when you know others are watching.
- Find some support. Although telling others is a great step towards accountability, finding a friend or even a group of people with similar goals as you will help even more. Not only that, you’ll have someone to talk to who understands what you’re going through when you (inevitably) get discouraged.
- Break down your goal into smaller–and more achievable–steps. In the same way that giving yourself a more specific goal makes it more achievable, breaking that goal down into smaller steps does the same thing. It helps the task to feel less overwhelming.
- Reward yourself for small wins. As you achieve some of the smaller goals you’ve set for yourself, don’t be afraid to reward yourself. This can be tricky if you are trying to eat healthier or work out more because you may not want to reward yourself with food for fear that it will send you back-sliding, but you can get creative with rewards like a manicure or pedicure or a small (non-food) gift for yourself.
- Be patient. Making a big change in your lifestyle takes time, so don’t go into the New Year expecting major progress over night. And although setting a specific goal and breaking that down into easy to achieve tasks can help you avoid slip ups, they will still inevitably happen. Don’t get too discouraged.
Butternut Squash Chili
– 1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
– ¾ cup chopped red onion
– 5 garlic cloves minced
– 3 tablespoons tomato paste
– 1 tablespoon chili powder
– 1 teaspoon ground cumin
– ½ to 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 ¾ to 2 cups of water
– 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
– 1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
– 1 can (14 ½ ounces) diced tomatoes
– 1 can (14 ½ ounces) tomato sauce
– 3 cups cubed and peeled butternut squash (½ inch cubes)
– 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
– Optional: Chopped avocado, plain Greek yogurt, and shredded mozzarella cheese
Step One: In a Dutch oven over medium heat, cook meat and onion, crumbling meat, until it is no longer pink and the onion is tender (approximately 6-8 minutes)
Step Two: Add garlic, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, and salt and cook one minute longer.
Step Three: Stir in water, beans, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat.
Step Four: Stir in squash and simmer about 20-25 minutes or until squash is tender. Stir in vinegar.
Step Five: If desired, served with chopped avocado, Greek yogurt, and shredded mozzarella cheese on top.