A new study by California researchers points out yet again the importance of prenatal pills. According to the researchers, women who do not take prenatal vitamins are twice as likely to have children with autism risks as women who do take the pills.
The team from the UC David MIND Institute used data collected from 700 women who were asked to note their dosage of prenatal vitamins, before, during, and after pregnancy.
They found that mothers of children with autism were less likely to take the vitamins than others.
Lead researcher Rebecca J. Schmidt, assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences in the UC Davis School of Medicine said, “Mothers of children with autism were significantly less likely than those of typically developing children to report having taken prenatal vitamins during the three months before and the first month of pregnancy,”
They found that women who were not taking any prenatal vitamins before conception and the first two months of pregnancy had two times more risk of having children with autism than other moms. If the family already had a genetic inclination towards autism then this risk increased sevenfold.
The scientists are very confident about their findings which for the first time relate nutritional needs with autism. The prenatal vitamins are known to have a high levels of folic acid and Vitamin B which are said to be crucial in early fetal brain development. The authors, therefore, believe that it is the presence or the absence of these key nutrients during the prenatal stage that increases or decreases autism risk in babies.
“Previous work on genes has generally ignored the possibility that genes [in utero] may act in concert with environmental exposures,” said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, professor and chief of the division of environmental and occupational health in the Department of Public Health Sciences in the UC Davis School of Medicine and study author.
The cause of autism is still unknown although many experts believe that genes do play a vital role in the development of this disorder. If the latest research is to be believed it also shows that environmental factors and the way a mother takes care of her nutritional needs during pregnancy also affect autism.
The research, however, is purely based on analysis of data collected and therefore may be open to deviation as many women may or may not have entered the information about their prenatal vitamin intake correctly.
Still, Hertz-Picciotto believes it is an important discovery that opens doors for more research on Autism.
“The good news is,” says Hertz-Picciotto, “that if this finding is replicated, it will provide an inexpensive, relatively simple evidence-based action that women can take to reduce risks for their child, which is to take prenatal vitamins as early as possible in a pregnancy and even when planning for pregnancy.”
While more research continues on the subject as a precaution though, it may not harm expectant moms to take their prenatal vitamins regularly just to make life a little more risk-free for their soon-to-be-born babies.