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Birth defects and spina bifida risk linked to obesity in pregnancy

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Being obese while pregnant significantly increases the risk of having children born with birth defects such as spifa defects, according to a study

Researchers from Newcastle University found a strong correlation between being seriously overweight at the start of a pregnancy and a wide range of congenital abnormalities. This includes children being twice as likely to suffer with spina bifida if their mother is obese.

Spina bifida is a neural tube defect that occurs when nerves of the spinal cord are left exposed and unprotected by the vertebrae.

Babies run nearly double the risk of being born with neural tube defects, which affect the brain and spinal cord, if they are born to obese women.

Obesity in women was also associated with babies being at an increased risk of heart defects, cleft palate, hydrocephaly or "water on the brain", anal abnormalities, and reduction in limb size.

But the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, points out that because these defects are rare to start with, even a significant increase in risk means the chances of them occurring are still small.

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