Why Moms-to-Be Might Want to Watch Their Diets

Healthy diet in pregnancy tied to lowered congenital heart problem risk in babies

Pregnant women may often hear that they’re eating for two. While that’s not necessarily accurate in terms of amounts, the quality of the diet may matter a lot.

In a new study, researchers from the University of Utah found that certain heart defects were less likely in babies of women who had better diets. Women who did not eat as well were more likely to have babies with congenital heart defects.

Congenital heart defects are common, costly and affect around 1 percent of newborns in the US.

Dr. Lorenzo D. Botto, who specializes in pediatrics and medical genetics, led this study of more than 18,000 women.

All study patients were members of the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Around half had given birth to healthy babies. The other half had babies with major heart abnormalities.

The babies were born between 1997 and 2009.

The women in this study answered a phone survey about their food habits in the year prior to pregnancy.

Mothers whose diets were in the top 25 percent for quality had a much lower risk of having a baby with a heart defect than those in the bottom 25 percent.

This is an observational study rather than proof that a poor diet causes birth defects. However, Dr. Botto and team noted that past research has shown links between diet and other types of birth defects.

This study was published in the August issue of the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities funded this research. Dr. Botto and team disclosed no conflicts of interest.