(ABC) -Birth defects affect around one in every 35 babies each year and are responsible for one in five infant deaths.
While many birth defects are genetic and not preventable, there are steps that women can take to help protect their baby during crucial stages of development.
"One of the more common birth defects are neural tube defects that have to do with the developments of the spinal cord and for that we recommend that women take folic acid," said Dr. Natalie Yeaney, director of the Fetal Care Center at Cleveland Clinic
According to the CDC, consuming 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid per day during a woman's reproductive years can help prevent spina bifida; a condition in which a baby's spine does not develop properly, leading to severe physical disabilities. Dr. Yeaney says folic acid is also recommended to help reduce the chances of a birth defect known as anencephaly, in which a baby's brain and skull do not form correctly and is therefore unable to survive.
For women who have pre-existing conditions that require medical treatment, Dr. Yeaney says it's a good idea to have a conversation with your doctor before planning a pregnancy.
"If you know that you have a medical condition and you're already on some kind of medication, prescription or otherwise, it might be a good idea to have a pre-conceptual visit with your doctor, kind of go over if that medication needs to be changed," Dr. Yeaney said.
Dr. Yeaney says that getting your pregnancy off to the right start by getting your own health in order is vital to preventing pregnancy problems, as most birth defects develop as early as four to six weeks after conception.
In other health news, April is Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month and the Leah M. Fitch Cancer Center in Lawton is having the 'Just say ahh' screenings on Saturday, April 16, from 8 a.m. until noon. For more information or to make an appointment, call 580-250-6565.