According to a study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, women who are pregnant or who want to get pregnant will want to avoid diets that reduce or eliminate carbohydrates , as they could increase the risk of having babies with neural tube birth defects ill . The study findings were published in the journal  Birth Defects Research 

The researchers found that women with low carbohydrate intake are 30% more likely to have babies with  neural tube defects , such as spina bifida (malformations of the spine and spinal cord) and anencephaly (absence of major portions of the brain and skull), that can lead to lifelong disability and infant death, when compared with women who do not restrict their carbohydrate intake.

"We already know that maternal diet before and during early pregnancy plays a significant role in fetal development. What is new about this study is its suggestion that low carbohydrate intake could increase the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect by 30%. This is relative because low carbohydrate diets are fairly popular, "said Tania Desrosiers, who led the study.

Tania Desrosiers added, "This finding reinforces the importance for women who become pregnant to talk to their health care provider about any special diets or eating behaviors they routinely practice."  Folic acid is an essential nutrient that minimizes the risk of neural tube defects. More than 20% of women in the US have blood folate concentrations below the recommended level to reduce risk of neural tube defects.

For this reason, in 1998 the FDA began requiring that folic acid be added to enriched grain products. Desrosiers and her study collaborators found that dietary intake of folic acid among women with restricted carbohydrate intake was less than half of other women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all women who become pregnant take a daily multivitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before and during pregnancy.

However, because there are almost half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned, many women do not initiate follicular supplementation until later in pregnancy, after a neural tube defect may have occurred. This makes fortified foods an important source of folic acid for women who may become pregnant.