Approximately one in every 33 babies in the United States are born with a birth defect. Some are caused by known factors such as medication taken while pregnant, but for others the causes are unknown.

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, and the Houston personal injury attorneys at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers want to help draw awareness to the problem and increase knowledge among women who are or may become pregnant.

Some Factors Known to Cause Birth Defects

There are several environmental factors during pregnancy that are known for potentially causing birth defects. These include:

  • Smoking
  • Consuming alcohol
  • Illegal drug use
  • Taking certain medications
  • Exposure to certain chemicals and infectious diseases

If you are pregnant, smoking and alcohol should be avoided. Any prescription or over-the-counter medication that you take should be discussed with your doctor.

Our personal injury lawyers in Houston note that several medications on the market have been correlated with medical issues for babies at birth, including Paxil, Topamax, Depakote and Zoloft.

Preventing Birth Defects

Genetic factors can also play a role in birth defects, but the majority have no known cause. There are steps you can take to decrease the risks.

Vaccinations should also be discussed with your healthcare provider, and a detailed family history should be given. Medical conditions such as diabetes should be monitored by your doctor during your pregnancy.

Avoid risks of infections diseases that can affect an unborn baby by regularly washing hands with soap, especially after using the restroom, after touching raw meat or vegetables, gardening or being around people who are sick. Pregnant women should not consume unpasteurized foods or handle dirty cat litter. As soon as you learn you are pregnant, or if you are trying to get pregnant, you should be tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

Other recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include:

  • Regular prenatal care
  • Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Take 400 mcg of folic acid every day

For more tips and information on birth defects prevention, visit the National Birth Defects Prevention Network.