While the Zika virus has been dominating the headlines, it isn't the only birth defect that can impact an unborn child. The good news is that expectant mothers can easily prevent many of the most common ones.

Finding your vitamins

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges women to take 400 micrograms of folic acid a day, starting a month before getting pregnant to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida or anencephaly, which affect 3,000 pregnancies each year.

“Taking folic acid is a good idea, whether or not a baby is planned, since every woman needs it for healthy skin, hair, and nails.”

Many breakfast cereals meet that recommended amount in just one serving, or expectant mothers can take a multivitamin instead. Taking folic acid is a good idea, whether or not a baby is planned, since every woman needs it for healthy skin, hair, and nails.

Treating complications before birth

Another challenge for some is how to treat preexisting conditions while pregnant. There are many resources to help mothers find the safest treatment options for common conditions, such as depression and epilepsy before and during pregnancy. Women taking medications should always consult with their doctors.

Preterm labor is the term for labor that begins too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Because preterm labor can result in long-term health effects for premature babies, including problems that affect the brain, lungs, hearing or vision, mothers who experience early labor should consult with their doctors immediately. Treatments may include bed rest, antibiotics, hormones or labor-delaying drugs. 

While there is currently no known cure for Zika, women planning to get pregnant should avoid mosquito bites. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, stay in air-conditioned places with window and door screens and use insect repellents registered with the Environmental Protection Agency.