Birth Defects Month- Increase your likelihood for a healthier baby!

January 10, 2018

Birth Defects Month is a worldwide health observance during January and Haywood Regional Medical Center wants to shed light on ways you can lower your chances of having a baby with a birth defect.

“Although many birth defects are not preventable, due to unknown risks - there are steps you can take to decrease the ones that are identified,” said David Kirk, MD, OBGYN.   

A birth defect is a condition seen at the birth of a baby, or acknowledged before birth by a doctor. Some defects can be seen as soon as a baby is born, such as cleft lip, and others may require testing to bring forth a diagnosis. Some birth defects are genetic and are passed down to the baby from their mother and/or father resulting in abnormal conditions through chromosomal disorders. Other issues could be caused by exposure during pregnancy or having higher risk factors.

Jenny Van Winkle, MD, OBGYN, offers her advice on ways to prevent defects during your next pregnancy:

  • See your doctor before becoming pregnant. If you’re planning on becoming pregnant, schedule a health care visit with your doctor. Along with a general overview of health, you will also receive important information on nutrition, diet, exercise, or special care specifically geared toward your prenatal wellness.
  • Know your risk factors. These include older age, family history of birth defects, having a child already with a birth defect, the use of certain medications around the time of pregnancy, alcohol or drug use during pregnancy, or current health conditions, such as diabetes or obesity, can increase the risk of having a baby with birth defects.
  • Take a daily multivitamin before and during pregnancy. Prenatal vitamin supplements contain the recommended amounts of the vitamins and minerals you will need during your pregnancy, such as vitamins A, C, and D; folic acid; and minerals such as iron.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists the most common obesity-related birth defects are neural tube defects, heart defects, and cleft palate. If you are planning a pregnancy, the best way to prevent problems caused by obesity is to be at a healthy weight before you become pregnant.
  • Use medications wisely. Although rare, there are some medications that are linked to birth defects. If you are taking any type of medication, discuss with your doctor before you become pregnant or as soon as you do to see if it could affect you or your baby.
  • Do not use alcohol or illegal drugs. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders is a term that describes different effects that can occur in the fetus when a woman drinks during pregnancy. These effects may include physical, behavioral, and learning disabilities that can last a lifetime. This is 100% avoidable if alcohol consumption is avoided during pregnancy.
  • Prevent infections. Take care of yourself and prevent infections from occurring that could harm yourself or your baby during pregnancy, such as the flu or rubella.
  • Avoid known harmful agents. Limit your expose to lead or mercury and avoid taking high levels of Vitamin A.
  • Prenatal Diagnostic Tests. There are diagnostic tests available that can detect certain disorders before a baby is born. These tests can also shed light on whether you are at a higher risk for particular defects, or if you and your partner have any inherited defects or chromosomal disorders. If diagnostic tests show that there is a problem, a genetics counselor or other health care provider can help explain the results and provide guidance in making choices.

Talk with your doctor before becoming pregnant and discuss ways to prevent birth defects specifically geared toward you. If you do not have an OBGYN you may call Haywood Women’s Medical Center at 828.452.5042 or visit The practice is located adjacent to the Haywood Regional Medical Center campus at 35 Facility Drive in Clyde, NC. Services at the practice include obstetrics, well-women gynecological exams, adolescent gynecological care, ultrasounds, minimally invasive hysterectomy, abnormal pap smear treatments, endometrial ablation, infertility evaluation, breast and cervical cancer screenings, contraceptive management including IUDs, hormone replacement, incontinence, pelvic pain, pelvic prolapse, premenopausal symptoms, laparoscopic surgery, and treatment of menstrual disorders.

The Women’s Care Center at Haywood Regional is comprised of six LDRP (Labor, Delivery, Recovery, and Postpartum) Suites, four post-surgical suites, and two designated triage rooms. During your delivery, enjoy private jet tubs, one-on-one lactation education, sleeper chairs for a loved one or birth coach, and a personalized gourmet meal after your delivery. We also have a Level I Nursery where we have the capability to stabilize premature or compromised newborns and prepare them for transfer to a higher level Nursery, if needed. Our Nurses Station is centrally located to accommodate any Women’s Care Patient and their family members.  We have 17 Registered Nurses on staff with a variety of experience and certifications. Our staff also includes two International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who visits with every mom and baby. Haywood Regional Medical Center has been recognized by the March of Dimes for its work and dedication to giving babies a healthier start. HRMC earned this recognition after successfully reducing the number of elective inductions and cesarean deliveries performed before 39 completed weeks of pregnancy to less than one percent (1%).