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Prenatal vitamins may help protect against autism


Claudia Boyd-Barrett

posted in Pregnancy

Here’s another reason to take your prenatal vitamins: it may help reduce your baby’s risk of developing autism.

A new study of more than 45,000 children in Israel found that kids whose moms took multivitamins or folic acid supplements during pregnancy had a significantly reduced risk of developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared to kids whose moms did not take those supplements.

Researchers gathered database records on prenatal vitamins prescribed to moms in the study. They then followed the children – all born between 2003 and 2007 – until Jan., 2015, to find out if they developed ASD. Almost 600 of the children were diagnosed with the disorder.

The risk of a child developing ASD was almost 75 percent lower when moms took either folic acid supplements or multivitamins or both during pregnancy, the researchers found. For moms who took these supplements before pregnancy, the reduction in risk was just over 60 percent, according to the findings published in JAMA Psychiatry.

It wasn’t a perfect study. The authors didn’t know which women actually took the supplements they were prescribed, for example. Some women may also have taken over-the-counter prenatal supplements that the researchers didn’t know about.

More studies are needed to confirm the findings, the authors said.

Nevertheless, the results are similar to another recently published study from Sweden that found a lower incidence of autism among children of women who took multivitamins during pregnancy.

These studies by no means prove that not taking prenatal vitamins causes autism in kids. They simply suggest that it could be a factor, at least in some cases. However, scientists believe autism could have multiple causes including genetics, having older parents, and environmental toxins.

Regardless of any link to autism, taking prenatal vitamins is a no-brainer if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant because it helps protect your baby from spinal cord and brain defects. Even if you’re eating a healthy diet, which is also important, it’s difficult to get all the nutrients your baby needs without supplementation.

Are you taking prenatal vitamins, or did you take them during pregnancy? What do you think of this study’s findings?

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