Folic Acid May Reduce Autism Risk During Pregnancy

reduce autism in pregnancysIf you are planning on getting pregnant, your doctor has likely mentioned that increasing your folic acid intake is important to prevent neural tube defects. New research is showing that this vitamin may also play a role in decreasing the risk of your child being born autistic. The key is to ensure that you are getting adequate folic acid before pregnancy and that you are getting the right amount once you become pregnant.

This study followed 85,176 babies for three to 10 years and looked at how mom’s intake of folic acid impacted whether or not the child ended up on the autism spectrum. The moms looked at were those that started folic acid supplementation four weeks prior to pregnancy all the way through those that did not start taking the supplements until they were eight weeks into their pregnancy.

Once researchers followed up with all of the kids, it was found that 270 kids had been diagnosed with a form of autism. There was a 40 percent reduction in risk in women who started to take folic acid early on in their pregnancy when compared to women who did not take a folic acid supplement at all. There was no reduction in risk found when it comes to PDD-NOS or Asperger syndrome.

Folic acid can be difficult to get in foods, though a lot of foods in the United States do contain it. When a woman is trying to get pregnant or just finds out she is pregnant, it is recommended that she take a supplement of 400 micrograms of folic acid each day.

In a developing fetus, the basic brain structures start to develop 15 to 56 days after a baby is conceived. This is early in the pregnancy, therefore, it is critical to be getting enough folic acid before you even become pregnant. The 400 micrograms per day is recommended not only when you are pregnant, but for all women of reproductive age. Also, just because you eat a diet rich in folic acid does not mean that you should skip the supplement. Folic acid is a water-soluble B vitamin, so whatever your body does not use will simply be excreted in your urine.

While the research needs to be confirmed in other populations, this is something for all women to start thinking about. It is still quite provocative to think that a nutritional supplement has the power to reduce the risk of autism in the developing fetus. However, since women should be taking in folic acid anyway to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, it certainly cannot hurt.

A good rule of thumb for all women is to get a comprehensive health physical before trying to become pregnant. This will allow you to know your general health status, how good your diet really is and if you are lacking in any essential nutrients, especially iron, folic acid, calcium and vitamin D. If you do have a deficiency, then you can get this corrected before even getting pregnant so that once you do become pregnant you know that you have everything that your baby will need for healthy growth and development.