Q&A: Can computer monitors cause birth defects?
I work in front of a computer screen all day and trying to get pregnant. Is this going to affect my pregnancy? I have heard that monitors can cause birth defects.
There was a time when it was thought that the CRT terminals increased the risk of birth defects due to their emission of electromagnetic radiation. That has since been proven to be just a rumor, with no basis in fact. I am glad that you are thinking about ways in which you can prevent birth defects, though! Birth defects occur on average in about 3 percent of newborns. About 1 percent have serious conditions.
Here are some actions that can be taken before pregnancy that may improve the odds:
- Start folic acid supplementation now. Folic acid 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) has been shown to decrease the chance of spina bifida and some other birth defects by about 50 percent. Since embryonic organs form in the first weeks of pregnancy (when some moms-to-be don’t even know they are pregnant) and many pregnancies aren’t planned, it is a good idea for all women in the childbearing years to take folic acid supplements, in the form of folic acid or a women’s multivitamin, even when they are not trying to conceive.
- Tune up your health. Obesity (defined as a body mass index over 30) has been described as a modern epidemic. And it turns out obesity increases the chance of birth defects, even for moms who are not diabetic. Many future moms are motivated, as they start to plan for pregnancy, to improve their health habits. A healthy balanced diet, regular exercise, and maintaining a normal body weight are good habits for pregnancy and beyond.
- If you have a medical condition, talk to your physician about planning your pregnancy. Women with diabetes can lower their high risk of birth defects almost down to baseline by having perfect blood sugar control in early pregnancy. Some prescribed medications (for example medications for epilepsy) can cause birth defects, too. Sometimes the risk of discontinuing a drug is greater than the risk to the baby, though. Needed medicines should not be discontinued in pregnancy without the guidance of your physician! The best option is to have a plan in place before you find out you are pregnant.
- Even totally healthy women can benefit from a preconception consultation with a doctor or midwife. Your age and family history, medications, health conditions, and lifestyle can be reviewed, genetic tests (like for the common lung disease cystic fibrosis) can be offered, and recommendations can be made before you become pregnant.
By the time of the first prenatal visit, embryonic organs are already forming, and some opportunities for preventing birth defects have already passed. Planning ahead can put you on the road to a happy and healthy pregnancy. I am so glad you are already thinking about taking the best care of your baby-to-be, before he or she is even conceived!