While most developmental and intellectual disabilities cannot be prevented, some can be. These include neural tube defects, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), head injuries, and shaken baby syndrome. Continue reading to learn more about preventing these conditions.

Consume Folic Acid for a Healthy Baby

Neural tube defects include conditions such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Folic acid can prevent neural tube defects and is an important nutrient for expectant mothers or women who plan to becoming pregnant. According to the March of Dimes, about 3,000 pregnancies are affected by neural tube defects each year in the United States. If all women took adequate folic acid before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy, up to 70 percent of neural tube defects could be prevented. The B vitamin folic acid can decrease the risk of birth defects in the baby’s brain or spine by 50 to 70 percent. The recommended daily amount is .4 milligrams before pregnancy and .6 milligrams during the first trimester. Folic acid found in foods is called folate and is present in peas, corn, dried beans, dark leafy green vegetables, white and whole wheat breads, beef liver, lean beef, bananas, fortified breakfast cereals, and orange juice. A daily multivitamin can guarantee that a woman is receiving the proper amount of folic acid.

Abstain from Alcohol During Pregnancy

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a pattern of mental, physical, and behavioral birth defects caused by alcohol use during pregnancy. A pregnant woman’s consumption of alcohol can also lead to an infant’s low birth weight, poor muscle tone, sleep disorders, and other defects. The Arc of the United States reports that between 1 to 3 of every 1,000 babies are affected by FAS or fetal alcohol effects (FAE) each year in the United States. FAE is caused by a lower level of alcohol exposure and results in learning disabilities, short attention span, hyperactivity, and behavioral problems. The best way to prevent these problems is for an expectant mother to abstain from any form of alcohol. There is no cure for FAS. Once the damage has been done, it cannot be undone. No one knows how much alcohol will cause birth defects. The only completely safe amount of alcohol is none at all.

Wear Bicycle Helmets to Prevent Head Injuries

A bicycle helmet cannot keep a cyclist from crashing, but it can significantly reduce the chance of serious brain injury. Helmets are critical safety equipment because a child needs only to fall from a height of two feet and hit his/her head to suffer traumatic brain injury. This type of injury impairs cognitive, physical, psychosocial, and emotional functioning, permanently or temporarily, and can lead to death.

How can you encourage your child to wear a helmet?

  • Wear a helmet yourself.
  • Talk to your children about why you want them to protect their heads.
  • Reward your children for wearing helmets.
  • Don’t let children ride their bikes without helmets.
  • Encourage your child’s friends to wear helmets too.

Never, Ever Shake a Baby

Crying is the most common reason why a baby is shaken. The caregiver may become frustrated and lose control. Shaking a baby can cause serious injuries or even death. Long-term consequences of shaken baby syndrome can include learning disabilities, physical disabilities, cerebral palsy, cognitive impairment, and seizures.

Ways to cope with crying:

  • When you feed your baby, do it slowly and burp him/her often.
  • Hold the baby against your chest and walk or rock gently.
  • Offer a pacifier.
  • Take your baby for a ride in a stroller or car or place in a baby swing.
  • Wrap your baby in a blanket and place in a safe location such as a crib and go into another room.
  • Call a family member, neighbor, friend or parenting hotline to talk or ask for help.
  • Put your baby in a safe place and take a break.
  • Do something else to reduce your stress.