Summer Fun Part 2

Water safety tips

By Dr. Amit Jain, MD FAAP MBA | Pediatrician

The summer is here and it is time to have some fun in the sun, and in the water. NOAH’s Pediatric team wants you to have a fun summer in the sun and in the water so here are some water safety tips!

Water Safety

Swimming is a great way to beat the summer heat here in Arizona and is a fun, healthy way to enjoy summer. However, water safety and drowning prevention are CRITICAL! Drowning is a very common cause of accidental, injury related deaths. Kids between 1 and 4 are at the highest risk.

  • Never leave children alone – even for a moment – in or near pool areas or other bodies of water (lakes, beaches, and even bathtubs or buckets of water!)
  • Install a fence at least 4 feet tall around the pool, which should ideally surround the pool on all sides and completely separate the pool from your home and yard. It should not have any gaps that a small child could slip over, under, or through. The gate should be a self-closing and self-latching gate that cannot be opened / reached by a small child.
  • Newer technology offers alarms, both for the gate and the pool that alerts you to anyone around the pool.
  • If an unexperienced swimmer is near the pool, make sure there is a designated adult for supervision. This adult should not be under the influence of alcohol or anything else, should not have any distractions (cell phone turned off or handed off to another adult), and preferably knows how to swim and perform CPR.
  • Keep rescue equipment such as a shepherd’s hook and a life preserver to reach / throw for rescues.
  • Avoid inflatable swim aids such as floaties, as they are not a substitution for proper life-preserving equipment such as life jackets.
  • Start swimming lessons early! Consider swim lessons for your child around age 1, but definitely by age 4. It may reduce the risk of drowning. Some neighborhoods that have pools have frequent swim classes for all ages.
  • Infant swim lessons are not advised because there is no evidence that swim lessons reduce a child’s risk of drowning under age 1 year old.
  • Talk to your pool operator to make sure your pool / spa and its drains are compliant with the pool and spa safety act.
  • Be safe and have a fun-filled summer!

Looking for more water safety tips? Check out the Red Cross’ tips to help you and your family have a fun and safe summer.

Summer Fun Part 1

Sun and summer safety tips

By Dr. Amit Jain, MD FAAP MBA | Pediatrician

Summer is here and many of us will be out with our kids to enjoy the sun. NOAH’s Pediatric team has a few summer safety tips for safe fun in the sun!

The sun brings many great things, but it also brings harmful UV (ultraviolet) light. UV light can cause melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer more common in people who have had bad sunburns when they were young. The sun can also cause other health risks and skin damage.

The first, best defense against the scorching summer sun is proper clothing and lots of shade.

  • Limit your time in the sun during 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (the most intense time).
  • Take frequent shade breaks if staying in the sun for long periods of time.
  • Cotton clothing is best – it’s protective against the sun and keeps moisture low so you stay cool outside. Tightly woven fabrics are best.
  • Wear a hat: wide brimmed is best to protect your child’s entire face, including the nose, cheeks, chin, ears, and back of the neck.
  • Kids sunglasses should have UV protection. They aren’t expensive and are sold lots of places like dollar stores and Walmart. But make sure they’re labeled with UV protection.
  • Use SPF 15 (or higher) sunscreen on any skin not protected by clothing. Don’t forget the ears, back of the neck, arms, and legs. Carefully apply around the eyes, avoiding eyelids.
  • Choose a sunscreen that has the words “Broad Spectrum” on it – that will cover both UVA and UVB rays. Avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone because it has bad hormonal side effects in males and females.  
  • Before applying sunscreen for the first time, test a small amount on your child’s back for an allergic reaction.
  • Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before sun exposure, because it takes this long to start working.
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every 1 hour.
  • If playing in the water, reapply sunscreen every half an hour, and use a waterproof sunscreen.
  • Babies under 6 months need more sun protection.
    • Avoid direct sun exposure. Keep them in shade with a canopy or under a tree.
    • Use wide brimmed hats to cover their face, ears, and neck.
    • Dress babies in lightweight clothing that covers their arms and legs.
    • If a young baby will be in the sun, apply small amounts of sunscreen SPF 15 or more to your baby’s face, hands, and legs.
  • Don’t forget to use sun protection even on cloudy days, as the harmful UV rays come through clouds.

If your child experiences a serious reaction to sunscreen, gets a bad sunburn or rash, talk to your NOAH pediatrician.

Looking for more summer sun safety tips? Visit HealthyChildren.org for tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Summer Screen Time Tips

Summer months can feel long with kids when school is out, and the heat keeps many of us indoors. Spending hours in front of a screen – television, computer, tablets, phones – can be tempting to pass the time but don’t lose the summer to screens. Let’s understand what safe and appropriate screen time is for kids of all ages.

Screen Time Guidelines

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, here are some good rules for screen time with kids:

  • Under 18 months – there should be no screens other than a video call with loved ones.
  • Under 2 years – limit screen time to no more than 1 hour a day of high-quality programs like Sesame Street.
  • Ages 2 – 5 years – screen time should be around an hour and be high-quality, educational shows that are made for young kids.
  • Older kids – it all depends on the kid and what they are doing on the screens. But experts agree, limit screen time for other activities like spending time with friends or family, exercise, or sports.

Busy Summer Without Screens

Turing off screens can make kids disappointed and even irritable at first, but it is good in the long run. Allowing children to be bored is actually very good for their development. There are some other things to keep kids busy this summer – even in this heat!

  • Chores – studies show that children who do chores (as young as 3) have higher self-esteem, are more responsible, and deal with frustrations better. So, make sure they clean their room, make their bed, and more. Examples of age-appropriate chores here.
  • Read – kids should either read if they can or be read to for at least 20 minutes every day.
  • Exercise – everyone should get active. It might need to be inside or early in the morning because of the heat, but get 30 minutes to an hour of sports, exercise, or other activities every day.
  • Creativity – make something or get creative. Help cook or bake, draw or paint, make music, or any number of other activities.

Screen time can be beneficial for education, something many parents and kids found out with virtual learning during the pandemic. But it’s not good for all kids, and you don’t want to overdo it! Plus it can be bad for a child’s (and adults) sleep. Read more about that here.

Remember that it is also important for parents and other family members to show the same behavior. If older siblings or parents are always on their phone, younger kids will want to do the same. Try to change up screen time in your home together and everyone will benefit!

Summer Fun with Kids

By Noel Ugarte, MS, RD |Nutrition Educator

Every summer, as the sizzling sun sets, I still think back to my childhood when my family would go to the park to play a few friendly rounds of kickball. Afterward, we would cool down with snacks before walking home. I loved these park competitions when I was a child. They were the perfect opportunity to let loose, be myself, and have fun with adults. That’s what summer fun with kids is all about! The good news is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agrees that physical activity can help children grow strong bones and muscles, improve brain function, and prevent chronic conditions.

Ready to get started with a fun summer with your kids?

#1. Choose an Activity

Having summer fun with kids is always going to be active! School-aged kids and adolescents should get at least 60 minutes of moderate or harder physical activity every day. Whatever activity you pick, it should increase heart rate and breathing. Think of fun activities you can do as a family and if it’s too hot outside (hello, Arizona summer!), get active inside!

Here are some ideas to get started: 

  • Water balloon toss or tag
  • Hiking/biking at a local location or National Park
  • Tug of war
  • Swimming
  • Jump rope
  • Races – one-on-one, relay, sack races (hopping)
  • Dance party or dance-off competition
  • Obstacle course race

#2. Fuel and Hydration

It is really important to keep your body fueled when you’re doing activities – especially in the Arizona heat! The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has easy suggestions for how much water kids should drink but remember it might be more with exercise or hotter temperatures. Be sure to drink lots of water throughout the day. NOAH’s team shares these recommendations.

Age RangeGenderTotal Cups Water Each Day
4 – 8 yearsBoys and Girls7
9 – 13 yearsGirls9
 Boys10
14 – 18 yearsGirls10
 Boys14

What kids eat is important too. Food gives us energy and important nutrients. Keep snacks available to refuel before, during, and after physical activities. Try to find non-perishable foods – things that won’t spoil or melt at high temperatures – to pack if you’re going outdoors. Some food examples include: 

  • Trail mix
  • Peanut butter crackers
  • Popcorn
  • Almonds, walnuts, peanuts
  • Tuna pouch and crackers
  • Chewy or crunchy granola bars (if hot, avoid chocolate chips!)
  • Pretzels

Taking perishable foods is still a good idea if you can keep them cool with ice packs or in a cooler. Some suggestions include: 

  • Fresh cut fruit or vegetables
  • Dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, milk
  • Meat, poultry, eggs

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends packing cold perishable foods between at least two cold sources (frozen gel packs, frozen water bottles, frozen juice packs) to prevent foodborne illness. 

Enjoy a safe, happy, healthy, and active summer with the kids in your life!

Infant Immunizations Save Lives

It’s National Infant Immunization Week, and NOAH wants everyone to know how to access the vaccines your infant needs. Infants and young children are at risk serious, life-threatening diseases that are preventable with vaccines. The best thing parents and guardians can do for infants is keep them on track with both vaccines and well-child visits.

During 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, many families fell behind on their children’s vaccinations because people stayed home. This sharp decline in infant immunizations is a concern for young children and for entire communities.

Before vaccines, many children suffered from diseases like whooping cough, measles, and polio, some children had life-long challenges because of the diseases, and many died from them. When children get vaccinated, it protects them and protects others in their families and communities like people with medical conditions or infants too young to get vaccinated yet.

Now is the time to get back to your pediatrician and make sure your child is protected against 14 serious and preventable diseases.

What are the 14 diseases infant immunizations prevent?

  • Polio – infects a person’s brain and spinal cord and can cause paralysis and death.
  • Tetanus – causes painful muscle stiffness and lockjaw, and it can be fatal. Tetanus is part of the DTaP vaccine.
  • Flu (influenza) – infects the nose, throat, and lungs and can be dangerous for children of any age, particularly infants under 6 months who cannot yet get the flu shot. Children over 6-months, and parents and caregivers should get the flu vaccine.
  • Hepatitis B – a dangerous liver disease infants can get from their mother during birth, and leaves many with a lifelong illness.
  • Hepatitis A – a contagious liver disease that, unlike hepatitis B, can be spread orally.
  • Rubella – in a pregnant woman, it can cause miscarriage, infant death just after birth, and serious birth defects. Part of the MMR vaccine.
  • Hib – affects kids under 5 and can cause brain damage, hearing loss, or death.
  • Measles – Measles is very contagious! It can cause pneumonia (serious lung infection), brain damage, and deafness. Part of the MMR vaccine
  • Whooping Cough – Whooping cough is highly contagious and can be deadly to infants. Mothers should be vaccinated during pregnancy to pass some protection to their babies, and others who will be around the newborn should have a recent whooping cough vaccine. Part of DTaP vaccine.
  • Pneumococcal – causes ear, sinus, and lung infections, and can cause meningitis.
  • Rotavirus – causes diarrhea, vomiting, fever, stomach pain, and can quickly lead to sever dehydration and hospitalization.
  • Mumps – symptoms include puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw, fever, head and muscle pain, and can spread quickly. Part of the MMR vaccine.
  • Chickenpox – known for the itchy rash of up to 500 blisters, chickenpox can be life-threatening, especially in babies.
  • Diphtheria – makes it hard for people to breathe or swallow, diphtheria can lead to heart failure, paralysis, and even death. Part of the DTaP vaccine.

Read more about these 14 diseases and the vaccines at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Infant immunizations allow more children to live long, healthy lives. If you are unsure about what vaccines your infant, older child, or even yourself as a parent or caregiver currently need, talk to a NOAH pediatrician or family medicine provider today. You can also ask your NOAH provider any questions you have about vaccines, diseases, and vaccine schedules.

Request an appointment online or by calling 480-882-4545.

Physical Activity for Every Age

By Daniel Smoots, MD Family Medicine 

Physical activity and exercise can seem like one more item to add to the to-do list, but there are good reasons why striving to get daily movement and exercise on to your family’s schedule is so important. There are many benefits to look forward to, from better physical and mental health, to quality family bonding time. Developing good exercise habits with your children provides an opportunity for encouragement and positive feedback which builds self-esteem and confidence, and helps motivate and maintain good habits as they grow. 

Why should we exercise?

  • Exercise is shown to improve physical health: controls weight, strengthens bones and muscles, gives you more energy, and leads to more restful sleep 
  • Activity and exercise are good for mental health: reduces anxiety, depression, and leads to higher self-esteem, and improved mood

How much exercise should a child get (CDC recommendations)? 

  • Children of different ages need different amounts of exercise, according to the CDC
  • 60 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each day (ex: fast walking, playing)
  • Vigorous-intensity activities 3 times a week (ex: running, playing fast-moving sport)
  • Muscle and bone strengthening activities 3 times a week (ex: climbing, push-ups, jumping)
  • Toddlers should engage in active play throughout the day 

How much exercise should an adult get?

  • 150 minutes (or 30 minutes 5 days a week) moderate-intensity aerobics each week 
  • Muscle and bone strengthening 2 times a week (resistance or weight training)

What are good ways to exercise together as a family?

  • Take a family walk, go to the park, hike, bike ride or rollerblade, play a game (ex: tag, hide and seek), try yoga, go swimming
  • Play sports. Soccer, basketball, tennis, racquetball can be played at varying levels depending on your family’s ages and skill levels

How to make exercise more engaging for children?

  • Make an activity chart to pick from or check off, spin a wheel to choose the activity, have them create and lead a new game, or build an obstacle course (add some competition for timing for who gets through the fastest)
  • Have them count the steps. Take the stairs, park further away in parking lots 
  • Have a dance party (helps get the “wiggles” out, and also a good aerobic activity when done for at least 10 minutes to upbeat music)

Make it a time that the family looks forward to by keeping it simple and fun, trying new things, and learning new skills. Find a way to get moving together as a family and feel and see the benefits!

Dental Tips for National Children’s Dental Health Month

By Nicollette Villescaz, Pediatric Dental Assistant

Even as the shortest month, February brings a lot of holidays and awareness topics. One awareness topic not to be missed is National Children’s Dental Health Month! My name is Nicollette and I am a professional pediatric dental assistant here at NOAH. I’m going to share pediatric dental tips on how parents and caregivers, along with your child’s dental team can work together to prevent tooth decay, which is the number one dental problem for preschoolers with around 50% of children having one or more cavities by age 5.

Dental tips to prevent tooth decay in your child

The best way to ensure healthy teeth is to prevent problems before they start. Things like having a healthy diet, proper brushing and flossing habits, and not having sugary drinks from baby bottles can help protect your child’s teeth.

Rethink your drinks

As parents and guardians of young children, we know that a healthy diet is important, and we shouldn’t give them candy and sweets too often. However, it’s actually what children drink, not what they eat that is more dangerous to their teeth. I have heard and seen our NOAH dentists and medical doctors express repeatedly how bad juice, soda, energy drinks, Gatorade, and lemonade are for children. They aren’t bad for kids just because of the artificial flavors, and dye colorings, but also because of the high amounts of acid and sugar. These drinks have too much sugar and acid for kids of any age. The only fluids a child needs are plenty of water (especially in this desert heat) and milk for nutrients like calcium. When parents and caregivers give children acid and sugars to eat and drink we are putting them at a greater risk for tooth pain caused by cavities.

Brush and floss

Children and parents need to know the right way to brush and floss those little teeth because baby teeth are so important to keep healthy. Our top priority when children and parents or caregivers come to NOAH Dental is education and prevention. There are stages to this as kids grow:

  1. As soon as teeth appear, it’s time to brush! A few tiny baby teeth need just a small amount of cleaning.
  2. When more teeth arrive, increase brushing. Parents and guardians need to help children brush their teeth twice a day. Kids can’t brush all the cavity-causing germs and crumbs away by themselves.
  3. Once a child is old enough to brush their own hair or tie their own shoes, then they can start to brush and floss on their own.
  4. Stay consistent at every stage. A dental hygiene routine is vital to healthy teeth.

Ditch the bottle

The biggest contributor to cavities in our infant and toddler patients is the bottle! Babies should never have anything other than water or milk. Once a child is a year old, they should only have milk with meals, not nap times or throughout the day – stick to water for that! Letting kids drink milk or juice any time of the day, puts them at risk for tooth pain caused by cavities.

Care for those baby teeth

Too often I hear parents or guardians say, “They are just baby teeth, it’s not so serious,” and “They will be falling out anyway.” This is where our dental education is so important! Children experience the same effects of a toothache exactly how an adult would, with cold sensitivity, difficulty drinking or eating, throbbing pain, swelling, infections, and difficulty sleeping. Children need healthy teeth to help them chew and speak clearly. Plus, baby teeth hold the space for their adult teeth to come in correctly.

Cavities and dental pain are preventable in children. The NOAH Dental team works together with parents and guardians to keep away tooth decay and pain away in children. To learn more, visit our NOAH Dental page for helpful videos and tips. If you are ready for you or your child to see a NOAH dentist, make an appointment today!

Children’s Mental Health & Learning During COVID: A Series

By Zach Clay, Licensed Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy

During this unprecedented and often challenging time in the world, we need to consider the impact everything has on children. The COVID-19 pandemic can be particularly tough for children’s mental health and their ability to learn. NOAH’s Behavioral Health team shares expert insight, best practices, and resources in this series of posts to help children maintain mental health in the era of COVID-19, social distancing, and distance learning.  

Identifying Depression & Developing Coping Skills for Children

Children experience the world around them – the good, the bad, the stressful, the happy, the uncertain – and sometimes need support to navigate everything. In many ways, children are similar to adults with mental health; identifying what is happening, talking about what is happening, and developing healthy coping skills. Here, we highlight ways to identify depression in young children and coping skills that are easy for children to do and remember.

Signs of depression in children

Children who are experiencing depression may show it in a variety of ways. They may express feeling hopeless, helpless, and discouraged and as caregivers, we should listen and help them explain what they are thinking and how they’re feeling. But we must listen without judgement, or without trying to “fix” things. Parents and other caregivers don’t need to agree with what they are saying but do need to let them know that they are heard and supported. For example, “I hear you. That sounds really hard and I’m sorry you are feeling sad. I love you.”

Symptoms of depression may include:

  • Changes to sleep patterns
  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Sadness or irritability
  • Loss of interest in activities they usually enjoy
  • Unusual sadness or irritability, even when circumstances change
  • Reduced feelings of anticipation or excitement
  • Sluggish or lazy
  • Overly critical of themselves, like “I’m ugly.” “I’m no good.” “I’ll never make friends.”
  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness
  • Thoughts of or attempts at suicide

It’s important to understand that this is more than a bad day or two, or occasional behavior changes that go away. If you see one or more of these symptoms for two weeks, they can suggest depression and you should make an appointment to get them professional help and support.

Developing coping skills

An important part of managing anxiety and fear is with healthy coping skills. These skills help you deal with stressful situations in a healthy and productive way. Mindfulness techniques are beneficial for all ages and are especially helpful for children. Mindfulness means taking time to focus on the present, be thoughtful about your feelings, focus your thoughts, and be in the moment.

These exercises take a little effort, but the investment is worth it especially now when there is such uncertainty about the future and what our world will be post-pandemic. These activities can make mindfulness work for both parents and children.

  • Squeeze Muscles: Starting at your toes, pick one muscle and squeeze it tight. Count to five. Release, and notice how your body changes. Repeat exercise moving up your body.
  • Belly Breathing: Put one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest. Slowly breathe in from your stomach (expand like a balloon) and slowly breathe out (deflate).
  • Meditation: Sit in a relaxed, comfortable position. Pick something to focus on, like your breath. When your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath. Do this for just a few minutes.
  • Blowing Bubbles: Notice and talk about their shapes, textures, and colors.
  • Coloring: Color something. Focus on the colors and designs.
  • Listening to Music: Focus on a whole song or listen to a specific voice or an instrument.

Mindfulness doesn’t have to be a big deal or extra work. Take a few minutes in the morning, after school, before bed, or a time that works for your child and family to practice mindfulness.

NOAH’s comprehensive team of behavioral health experts  can work with you, your child and your entire family to address stresses, depression, coping skills, and more.

Children’s Mental Health & Learning During COVID: A Series

By Zach Clay, Licensed Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy

During this unprecedented and often challenging time, we should consider the impact it has on children. The COVID-19 pandemic can be particularly tough for children’s mental health and their ability to learn. NOAH’s Behavioral Health team shares expert insight, best practices, and resources in this series of posts to help children maintain mental health in the era of COVID-19, social distancing, and distance learning.  

Help children understand COVID

It is approximately 11 months after the COVID-19 pandemic began. In many ways, we are still adjusting to different phases of routines and “normal” life activities, and that includes children. Parents and caregivers should be able to talk about the impacts of the virus to help children understand without causing them to feel overly worried or anxious. NOAH experts support the following recommendations from the Child Mind Institute to help guide parents and other caregivers in these conversations with children.

  • Welcome their questions. Kids have questions! Any parent, teacher, grandparent, neighbor, babysitter, and friend knows that children have many questions. It’s a good thing because curiosity is an important quality in kids. Questions can range from serious, like “Will Grandma be okay?” to the much less serious, like “Will my favorite videogame store still be there?”. Encourage their questions and take their concerns seriously. Your goal is to help your children be heard and to answer their questions with fact-based information.
  • Don’t avoid questions you can’t answer. Telling a child “I don’t know.” is an acceptable answer when it is the truth. There is a lot of uncertainty right now, and things change frequently. While we want to tell our children that everything will be “back to normal soon,” we may not know. Helping your child learn how to accept uncertainty is key to reducing anxiety and helping them build resilience.
  • Be developmentally appropriate. Being honest is important, but that doesn’t mean giving too much information which can be overwhelming or confusing for children. Answer their questions honestly and clearly, and if they have follow-up questions they will ask because you have shown them you will answer their questions.
  • Deal with your own anxiety. We are living through a global pandemic and economic crisis. This isn’t an easy or normal situation for anyone of any age. It’s okay, and expected, for parents or caregivers to have sadness, stress, or anxiety about everything happening. But don’t try to talk to your children about their questions or stresses if you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Take some time before having a conversation or answering your child’s questions because it will be hard to help them if you are struggling. If you are experiencing stress and anxiety about COVID-19 or anything else, NOAH’s counseling team is available.
  • Be reassuring. Children may be worried that they will catch the virus or become afraid other people they care about will become sick. Reassure them that children don’t usually get very sick, and that as a family you are doing everything you can to keep them – and other people – safe and healthy by wearing masks, socially distancing, and following other recommendations.
  • Focus on what you’re doing to stay safe. Children will feel safe by having parents and other caregivers emphasize the safety measures that you, and others around you (like teachers, coaches, etc.) are taking. Remind kids that washing their hands is helping everyone by stopping the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.

Keep talking to your kids. When they know you will answer their questions, help find answers together, tell them the truth, and help them feel calm and safe, they will likely keep talking. Many children (and adults) are visual learners and might enjoy learning about the virus with a comic book created by NPR. More on this series for Children’s Mental Health & Learning During COVID to come!

Understanding & Preventing Some Birth Defects

By Dr. Lindy Truong

Birth defects are not uncommon. Every year, one out of every 33 babies is born with some kind of birth defect ranging from minor, to those with life-long challenges. Some are preventable, and many can be managed better with proper care and support from a medical team.

There are, however, some factors that increase the risk of having a baby with a birth defect. January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, so here are ways to increase the chance of having a healthy baby. This year’s theme is “Best for you. Best for baby.”

Healthy Moms for Healthy Babies

One of the most important steps a patient can take to having a healthy baby is to make sure they are healthy themselves prior to getting pregnant and throughout pregnancy. One of the most important ways to do that is to maintain a healthy weight before becoming pregnant, since women will gain weight during pregnancy. Babies born to obese women have an increased risk of having birth defects, such as heart and spinal cord defects.

Folic Acid During Pregnancy

Folic acid plays a big role in a baby’s development during pregnancy. Women who are pregnant or might become pregnant should try to have 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. In early development, folic acid helps form the neural tube—a structure that begins forming in the first 3 to 4 weeks after conception. Later, the neural tube becomes the brain and spinal cord. Folic acid is important in preventing birth defects that affect the baby’s brain (anencephaly) and spine (spina bifida).

Prenatal Care

Starting prenatal care as early as possible during a pregnancy has shown to increase healthy, full-term deliveries. If someone is pregnant, they should start prenatal care as soon as they think they might be pregnant. It will be important to continue all prenatal appointments throughout the pregnancy. These appointments ensure that both baby and mom are healthy, monitor any medications because some can cause birth defects, and so much more.

Preventative Health

Being current on vaccinations is important to protecting both mother and baby. The two most important vaccines to have during pregnancy are the Flu and Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis a.k.a. whooping cough) vaccines. When mothers get these vaccines during pregnancy, it also protects them from the flu and whooping cough for a short period post-delivery as well!

What to Avoid

Last, but not least, it is very important to avoid substances like alcohol, smoking, and recreational drugs. These can seriously increase the risk for birth defects. Drinking any alcohol during pregnancy can increase the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome and defects. Smoking and recreational drugs similarly increases the risk that the baby will be born smaller and with birth defects.

Expecting a baby can leave the parents with many questions, which is why having a trusted medical home for you and your baby is so important. If you plan to get pregnant, take care of yourself and do what is best for you, because it is also what is best for the baby.

You can schedule a preconception visit with your healthcare provider before you even become pregnant, which is a good place to start. Being healthy before pregnancy sets a good foundation for a healthy pregnancy. Continue with regular prenatal visits for close monitoring along the way. These are simple yet important things one should do to prevent birth defects in their baby.