Diet Prevents Birth Defects

03.29.12 Study re-emphasizes that a mom-to-be's nutrition affects the future of her baby.


Eating a diverse healthy diet during pregnancy may be more important in preventing birth defects than previously imagined, according to findings from a recent study published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Adding the B vitamin folic acid to the U.S. food supply cut neural-tube defects (NTD) by 40 percent, but experts note that no single nutrient can carry the prevention load alone.

A large study of mothers who had babies with or without NTDs or other malformations found that those who reported having the best-quality prenatal diets overall were only half as likely to have a baby with a fatal brain defect than moms with low-quality diets. They were up to 20 percent less likely to give birth to a baby with spina bifida and up to 30 percent less likely to deliver one with cleft lip or palate.

A best-quality diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables and whole grains and limits saturated fats and sweets.

Let's face it: You are what you eat—and the same goes for your baby. Check out our nutrition tips that will help both of you during these nine months.

Supplements, in addition to a healthy diet, can help you get the necessary nutrients while you're expecting. Check out our How to Get the Vitamins You Need page for more articles on how to choose prenatal vitamins to get the nutrients your body may lack.