A new study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine has found that the time for a future mom to eat right isn’t just when she’s already expecting – it’s way before then. The research, which was led by Suzan L. Carmichael, Ph.D., of Stanford University and her colleagues, looked at the possible link between the quality of mothers’ diets in the year before they became pregnant and their risk of delivering a baby with specific birth defects, include neural tube defects (NTDs; abnormalities that occur in the spine or brain of a baby during pregnancy, causing severe mental and physical disability) and orofacial clefts (such as cleft lip with or without the palate).
Dr. Carmichael and her colleagues looked at data from telephone interviews with pregnant women who were due between October 1997 and December 2005 in 10 U.S. states; the interviews asked the women about their diet. Their finding: The higher the quality of a mother’s diet, the lower the risk for a major birth defect in her baby. In particular, the intake of the B vitamin folic acid, which has been linked to a lower risk of neural tube defects, seemed to be especially important. Prenatal and most multivitamins contain folic acid (the synthetic form of the vitamin; folate is the form of the vitamin in food), which has been found to protect again the development of NTDs when taken before pregnancy and during the first two months of pregnancy. You can also find folate in foods like fortified breakfast cereals, beef liver, spinach, asparagus, and Great Northern beans. The researchers concluded that, “these results suggest that dietary approaches could lead to further reduction in risks of major birth defects.”
Has your diet changed since you started TTC? If so, what did you cut out and what did you start eating?