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Study: Healthy Pregnancy Diet Reduces Birth Defects

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Expectant mamas may want to re-think their eating habits following the release of a new study reported in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The population-based study found that beyond folic acid supplementation, a healthy, well-balanced diet during pregnancy reduces the risk of birth defects, reports MedPage Today.

Plus: Readers share 15 weirdest pregnancy cravings

Folic acid had been previously shown to help prevent some birth defects, specifically neural tube defects, and this study does not change recommendations for its use during pregnancy. However, women who incorporate a diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains during their childbearing years run a lower risk of having children with neural tube or orofacial cleft birth defects, according to the new study, highlighting the importance of good eating habits even before a pregnancy has been confirmed, as birth defects can develop before a woman knows she is pregnant. 

Plus: What's safe to eat (and what's not) during pregnancy

The study compared women who followed a healthy Mediterranean style diet a year before pregnancy and women who ate diets high in sugar, fat and meat. Women who consumed the highest quality diets (according to the Diet Quality Index for Pregnancy, which ranked diet by adherence to the now-replaced USDA Food Guide Pyramid) had up to a 51% lower risk of having a baby with anencephaly, 34% lower risk of cleft lip, and 26% lower risk of cleft palate compared with the poorest diets.  

What was your diet like while you were pregnant? Did you have strong food cravings or aversions, making it hard to eat well-balanced meals?