Keeping Your Baby Healthy and Safe Starts Before Birth

By January 5, 2024 No Comments

Motherhood begins before your baby is born. Every pregnancy is different bringing new feelings and experiences, and lots to learn! Getting proper medical care and making healthy choices are important to keep you and your growing baby as healthy as can be and help prevent birth defects. Follow these tips to help keep your baby safe before and after they are born:

Start Prenatal Care Early and See a Healthcare Professional Regularly

Even if you are healthy, schedule prenatal checkups as soon as you find out you are pregnant. Babies of moms who don’t get prenatal care are more likely to have a low birth weight or health issues compared to babies of moms who do get prenatal care.

  • See a provider regularly, such as a doctor, nurse practitioner (NP), physician assistant (PA), or midwife, to keep you and your baby safe by catching health issues early.
  • Be honest with your health care provider to get the best care for you and your baby. Any information you share with your doctor is confidential.

If you need help getting prenatal care, contact OC’s Prenatal Care Guidance Program by calling our Toll-Free Health Referral Line at 1-800-546-8848 or visit OCHCA: Prenatal Care Guidance Program (PCGP) English | Spanish |Vietnamese.

To learn more about prenatal checkups: March of Dimes: Prenatal Care Checkups English | Spanish.

Take Folic Acid Daily

Folic acid is a B vitamin that is important for normal growth and development and that can help prevent major birth defects. Protect your baby from developing brain and spine defects by making healthy food choices and taking folic acid supplements (at least 400 micrograms (mcg)) every day before and during pregnancy.

In addition to taking a folic acid supplement, eat foods high in folic acid such as:

  • Eggs
  • Fortified bread, rice, pasta, or corn masa flour foods
  • Beans, peas, and lentils
  • Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and arugula
  • Fruits including oranges, lemons, bananas, melons, and strawberries

For more information on how to get enough folic acid each day, visit March for Dimes: Folic Acid Health Action Sheet.

Prevent Complications from Infections

Get Vaccinated

Vaccinations are key to protecting you and your growing baby from infections that can cause serious health problems. Some important diseases to get vaccinated against during pregnancy include:

  • Influenza (flu) – as soon as it is available if you are pregnant or will be pregnant during flu season (generally fall and winter)
  • Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis [whooping cough]) – between 27 to 36 weeks of pregnancy, even if you got it earlier
  • COVID-19 – if you have not received the updated COVID-19 vaccines
  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – if you are 32 through 36 weeks pregnant during September to January

For more information on vaccinations during pregnancy:

  • California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Immunization Branch:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Vaccines During and After Pregnancy English | Spanish
  • March of Dimes: Vaccinations and Pregnancy English | Spanish

Having fever and/or respiratory symptoms?

  • Pregnant people are at increased risk of severe disease from influenza (flu) and COVID-19. Contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you are sick to see if treatment is indicated.

Get tested for sexually transmitted infections

  • All pregnant people should be screened for sexually transmitted infections during pregnancy. Sexually transmitted diseases can cause serious, life-threatening illness in your baby. Early identification and treatment is key to protecting your baby.
  • See CDC’s STDs during Pregnancy English | Spanish

Make Sure Your Medications are Safe Before Using Them During Pregnancy

Taking care of your health is important during pregnancy, including taking your regular medications. However, some prescription medicines can be harmful to your baby.

Talk to your healthcare provider about ANY medications you are taking if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, especially if you’re taking:

  • Certain acne medications, like isotretinoin
  • Opioids
  • Blood clot medications like warfarin
  • Certain COVID-19 medications
  • Medications to treat mental health disorders
  • Medications to treat seizures

To learn more about medication safety during pregnancy:

  • March of Dimes: Prescription Medicine during Pregnancy English | Spanish

Avoid Drugs, including Tobacco, Marijuana, and Alcohol

Drug, tobacco and alcohol use are dangerous to your developing baby, increasing their risk for birth defects, developmental problems, premature birth, and death. The best time to stop using drugs, smoking, or drinking is BEFORE you get pregnant, but quitting at any time during pregnancy can help your baby. You are not alone! For information about substance use and pregnancy and how to get support, see Substance Use and Pregnancy.

To learn more about how drug and alcohol use affect your baby:

  • MotherToBaby: Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Exposure Fact Sheets English | Spanish.

Additional Resources