We live in a society that is bombarded with toxins and bad dietary decisions. The choices we make have an impact not just on our health, but even the health of our yet-unborn children. There are clearly ways to lower the risk of birth defects, have a healthy pregnancy and start your child out as healthy as possible.
There are basically three avenues to approach a healthy pregnancy. First is the environmental / toxic side. Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) conducted the 10 Americans study and found that the average developing baby was exposed to at least 200+ chemicals in the womb. And this was from checking only a mere percentage of the chemicals the EPA allows; checking more likely would’ve resulted in finding higher numbers of chemical exposures.
This means that, even before getting pregnant, a couple needs to be very aware of the chemicals they are exposed to and do their best to eliminate or reduce exposure. Every OB warns the pregnant woman to avoid cleaning the litter box, but how many mention to avoid hair dyes, pest sprayings, plastic water bottles, anything with the “new shower curtain smell,” old cushions, etc…?
The second approach is to increase the quality of the diet. That means no foods that have ingredients a biochemist can’t pronounce. Even better–eat foods that don’t have labels. It means more fruits and veggies. It means NO refined carbs. It means an increased intake of omega 3 fatty acids along with a decrease of omega-6 fatty acids. It means keeping your caloric intake reasonable and not use the “eating for two” excuse.
Third, a good quality mutlivitamin is essential. I have yet to see a prescription prenatal vitamin that isn’t anything short of horrendous. Then, if you throw in the fact that many cost $30-40 / month, you should begin to get a little nauseous. A good quality prenatal will contain more than just folic acid (1 mg of folic acid makes it a prescription…999 mcg would not be–go figure), but should read more like a multivitamin along with biotin, magnesium, calcium and iron. NO artificial colors, flavors or titanium dioxide.
So, in summary, follow these recommendations to lower the risk of birth defects:
- Avoid PCBs during pregnancy
- Take prescription drugs only when absolutely necessary
- Get down to an ideal body weight before getting pregnant
- Make sure you are taking Vitamin D
- Avoid fertility treatments unless all lifestyle changes have failed
- Avoid deep fried foods such as potato chips and french fries
- Switch to a plant based diet if fertility problems are present
- Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids
- Take a high quality probiotic supplement
- Eat healthier foods to give the newborn a taste for these foods
- Follow principles of a Mediterranean diet
Finally, in this particular study, researchers found that a dietary pattern that resembles the Mediterranean diet will lower the risk of the birth defects of cleft palates and neural tube defects. So, overall, it is very clear that lifestyle choices can lower the risk of birth defects and greatly contribute to a healthy pregnancy.