Healthy Eating In Utero

Maternal diet may prevent birth defects

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) During pregnancy, mothers are told they need folic acid, also known as folate. This mineral helps prevent neural tube defects, but it doesn't prevent all birth defects.

Prenatal vitamins are very important especially if you know you're pregnant. Prenatal vitamins are supposed to help enhance the mother's diet so that specific nutrient needs are being met for the baby. Researchers now know the importance of a high quality diet for expecting mothers.

"Make sure you're eating healthy during pregnancy."

Suzan L. Carmichael, Ph.D., from the department of pediatrics at Stanford University and team studied the effects of quality maternal diet had on certain birth defects.

High quality diet includes all food groups like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, fat, sugar and vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron and folate.

Ten different cities around the United States participated in the study. Expecting mothers had to have due dates between October 1997 to December 2005 to be eligible. The researchers interviewed 72 percent of case and 67 percent control participants over the telephone.

Researchers used food frequency questionnaires to measure and calculate the Mediterranean Diet Score (MDS) and Diet Quality Index (DQI).

The results indicated that higher quality diet a year before the actual pregnancy, which was based on either the MDS or DQI score, was linked to less risk for birth defects such as neural tube defects, anencephaly and cleft lip. This study suggests that dietary changes and fortifying foods before actual pregnancy as well as during can help lower risks for major birth defects.

The multicenter, population-based-case-control study was published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine on October 3, 2011.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 4, 2011
Last Updated:
October 11, 2011