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Lake Regional Shares 5 Tips to Prevent Birth Defects

Monday, January 18, 2021

In recognition of January as National Birth Defects Prevention Month, Lake Regional Health System is joining with leading prenatal health experts to increase awareness of five critical tips to reduce the chances of having a baby with a birth defect.

“Every 4 ½ minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect in the United States,” said Mary Lou Gamm, R.N., BSN, RNC-OB, women and children’s service line director at Lake Regional. “Simply put, it doesn’t have to be that common. That is why Lake Regional has joined with other prenatal health experts to raise awareness about this important issue.”

The National Birth Defects Prevention Month campaign theme, “Best for You. Best for Baby,” aims to raise awareness about the prevalence of birth defects cases throughout the United States. In Missouri, about one in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect.

“Although we can’t prevent all birth defects, the following steps increase a woman’s chance of having a healthy baby,” Gamm said.

  1. Take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Folic acid can help prevent some major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine when taken before and during early pregnancy.
  1. Book a visit with your health care provider before stopping or starting any medicine. There are often benefits to continuing treatment throughout pregnancy. Discussing a treatment plan before a pregnancy allows a woman and her health care provider to weigh the pros and cons of all options to keep mom and baby as healthy as possible.
  1. Become up-to-date with all vaccines, including the flu shot. Having the right vaccinations, like the flu and Tdap vaccines, at the right time during pregnancy can help keep a woman and her baby healthy. Talk to your health provider about which vaccines are right for you.
  1. Before you get pregnant, try to reach a healthy weight. Obesity increases the risk for several serious birth defects and other pregnancy complications.
  1. Boost your health by avoiding harmful substances during pregnancy, such as alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
  • There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy, and drinking during pregnancy can cause major birth defects.
  • Smoking during pregnancy can cause dangerous chemicals to damage the placenta and/or reach the baby’s bloodstream.
  • The opioid addiction epidemic has led to a sharp increase in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), premature birth and drug withdrawal in developing babies.

The complete 2021 National Birth Defects Prevention Network’s information packet, including this year’s primary tips for birth defects prevention, “Best for You. Best for Baby. 5 Tips for Preventing Birth Defects,” is available at All materials can be printed, electronically conveyed or added to websites for distribution as needed.

More than 650 babies are born each year at Lake Regional Health System’s Family Birth Center. The Family Birth Center offers prenatal care classes, prepared childbirth classes for first-time parents and breast-feeding support. To learn more, visit