Link Between Folic Acid & Autism Means It's Never Too Early for Prenatal Vitamins

baby bumpA new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that taking folic acid before pregnancy may lower a baby's risk of developing autism.

Researchers examined data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, which looked at over 85,000 babies who were born between 2002 and 2008. The mothers were asked to report whether they were taking folic acid before and during pregnancy. They found that moms who took folic acid four weeks before pregnancy and eight weeks after becoming pregnant had a 40 percent lower risk of having a baby with autism.


And what's really interesting is that this particular study is not the first one to be published with results showing that a woman's prenatal supplements before getting pregnant can affect a baby's risk of developing autism.

In 2011, Dr. Rebecca Schmidt from University of California, Davis School of Medicine published a study that found "autism arises because of both genetic and external factors, including women’s prenatal vitamin intake before conception."

Dr. Schmidt says, "Given the replication of findings showing reduced risk of autism associated with folic acid supplements taken near conception, more research is needed to investigate whether this association is causal. Interestingly, both studies reported ... a nearly 40 percent reduction in risk for autism.

Wow. I'd say that's definitely "interesting," all right.

It's been seven years since I was pregnant, but I still remember my doctor stressing the importance of taking a prenatal vitamin, in particular, one containing folic acid. But like most expectant moms, I was told that it was important to prevent birth defects. Its effect on autism never even crossed my mind.

But it totally makes sense, based on what pediatrician Dr. Ari Brown, had to say. He is not affiliated with the study, but noted, "We know that folic acid deficiency leads to defects in the development of the nervous system. So it would not be surprising that a deficiency might also affect brain development in other ways."

I didn't start taking prenatal vitamins until I found out I was pregnant, simply because my husband I weren't "actively" trying to conceive. Sure, we knew it was a possibility, but we didn't expect it to happen as quickly as it did.

But for couples who are planning things out much better than we did, the results of this study are definitely valuable. If I were trying to get pregnant again, I'd start taking a prenatal vitamin containing folic acid immediately, especially now that its possible link to autism has been revealed. A potential 40 percent lower risk is more than significant enough to convince me that folic acid is not only beneficial, but also may be a necessity.

Did you start taking folic acid before you got pregnant?


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