There’s a new health risk for pregnant women: low carb diets. While you may think it would help you manage how much weight you gain during pregnancy, cutting carbs can actually harm an unborn baby.
A new study from the University of North Carolina found that women who restricted their carbohydrate intake prior to conceiving were 30 percent more likely to have a baby with birth defects. Those defects include Spina Bifida and Anencephaly.
The study published in the January 25th journal of “Birth Defects Research” looked at 11,000 women across the United States. Of those women, just over 1,500 had babies with neural tube defects. Some babies had lifelong disabilities, others did not survive.
Experts believe that a low carb diet reduces women’s folic acid intake. Folic acid is a man-made form of a B vitamin called folate. It plays an important role in the production of red blood cells and helps a baby’s neural tube develop properly into their brain and spinal cord.
Folic acid can be found in a variety of foods. The Food and Drug Administration requires manufacturers add folic acid to enriched grain products like cereal, bread pasta and rice. But if you are not eating carbs, you may not get enough folic acid for a developing baby.
It’s recommended that women take 400 micrograms of folic acid a day starting a month before trying to get pregnant. Most prenatal vitamins contain folic acid. Folate is also found naturally in citrus fruits and dark green vegetables.
Doctors say if you want to cut carbs, save that nutritional plan until after you deliver. It is a safer, healthier route to a happy, healthy baby.