Even before pregnancy, women looking to have children can impact an infant’s health by eating well, finds new research published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
Currently, one percent — roughly 40,000 — of births in the United States are complicated by congenital heart defects (CHD), and 25 percent of newborns affected will need surgery within their first year of life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In a sample of approximately 19,000 women who participated in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, the split between moms who had given birth to healthy babies and moms whose babies had heart defects was even, allowing for particularly straightforward analysis. All the women were asked to detail the quality of their diet in the year leading up to their pregnancy.
Researchers found that in the top quartile (25 percent) of diet quality, the risk of infant CHD was “significantly lower” than mothers in the bottom quartile.
The babies of moms with the healthiest diets, for instance, had a 37 percent lower risk of suffering from a condition known as Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF), a condition that involves four classic anatomical abnormalities of the heart.