January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, and this year’s theme is “Best for You. Best for Baby”. Leading prenatal health experts from the National Birth Defects Prevention Network, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics, March of Dimes, Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention, and MotherToBaby have partnered to increase awareness to reduce the chances of babies born with birth defects. One critical area is that of avoiding harmful substances during pregnancy, such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy or when trying to get pregnant. A developing baby is exposed to the same concentration of alcohol as the mother during pregnancy, which can result in a wide range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. Alcohol and tobacco use can each increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Alcohol use may also make it more difficult for a woman to become pregnant.
Tobacco use in any form can harm an unborn baby. Carbon monoxide, a toxic gas found in cigarette smoke, lowers oxygen levels in the mother’s blood, which means there is also less oxygen for the baby. Nicotine, the addictive drug found in tobacco, reduces blood flow by causing blood vessels to narrow. This means that fewer nutrients can reach the baby. Pregnant women who smoke have more problems with pregnancy and delivery than nonsmokers do and may have a baby with low birth weight.
Chemicals in marijuana pass through the mother and can harm a baby’s development, and opioid exposure during pregnancy can cause Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), a condition in which the newborn experiences withdrawal from the substance and possible premature birth.
Let’s support our future generation of babies by encouraging potential mothers to choose a healthy lifestyle free of substances! Be an active participant in this important Prevention Month by visiting the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN) website for “Five Tips for Preventing Birth Defects” and downloading the entire 2021 toolkit! For assistance with a substance use disorder, call the Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse’s Clinic at 585-593-6738.
Remember, prevention works!