New study finds taking prenatal vitamins early in pregnancy lowers risk of autism
According to a new US study, taking prenatal vitamins during the first month of pregnancy is associated with a lower risk of developing autism in children who are at high risk for the disorder.
As part of the study, US researchers followed 241 children whose older siblings had a diagnosis of autism and who therefore had an increased risk of being diagnosed with the disorder. The researchers evaluated the children's development starting at six months through three years of age. At the same time, the mums were asked through phone interviews and mailed questionnaires about prenatal vitamin use.
What this research found, was that approximately one in every four children enrolled in the study went on to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. However, most interestingly, of the children whose mothers took prenatal vitamins in the first month of the pregnancy, 14.1 percent went on to develop autism, compared with 32.7 percent in children whose mothers did not.
Folic acid also seemed to play a part, as the reduction in the risk of developing autism also seemed to be greater for the children whose moms took greater doses of folic acid and iron during pregnancy, suggesting that there might be at least a partial dose effect. This means prenatal vitamins with greater concentrations of folic acid and iron seemed to work better at preventing autism in children at risk.<
This is what Dr. Pankhuree Vandana, a child psychiatrist and medical director of the Autism Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital, had to say to CNN about the study:
"This is a very important study. The results add to a body of literature suggesting that folic acid -- a supplement found in most prenatal vitamins -- can be protective against developmental disorders like autism."
And although this would be considered a smaller study, Vandana explains that given the safety, low cost and benefits of prenatal vitamins, expectant mums should start taking them as early as possible.
"It is an easy thing to do ... and it might actually help, even when the odds are stacked up against you."