The researchers followed 241 children whose older siblings had been diagnosed with autism and who therefore had an increased risk of being diagnosed with this disease. The researchers evaluated the development of children from 6 months to 3 years. At the same time, mothers were interviewed through telephone interviews and mailed questionnaires on the use of prenatal vitamins.
In the new study, reducing the risk of developing autism also seemed to be more important for children whose mothers were taking higher doses of folic acid and iron during pregnancy, suggesting that at least partial dose effect. This means that prenatal vitamins with higher concentrations of folic acid and iron seemed to work better to prevent autism in at-risk children.
Early prenatal vitamin intake was also associated with milder symptoms and higher cognitive scores in children who were finally diagnosed with autism.
"This is a very important study," said Dr. Pankhuree Vandana, Children's Psychiatrist and Medical Director of the Center for Autism of the Nationwide Children's Hospital & # 39; s , who did not participate in the research. The findings add to a literature suggesting that folic acid – a supplement found in most prenatal vitamins – can protect against developmental disorders such as autism, she added. .
Compared to mothers who did not take prenatal vitamins at an early stage, mothers in the study were more likely to have obtained a bachelor's degree or higher, to own a home, to have private health insurance and having an intentional pregnancy.
Vandana worries that the study is relatively small and warns that the results may not be true in the general population. In addition, she points out that in recent years, expectant mothers continued to take prenatal vitamins at similar or higher rates, but the incidence of autism continued to increase. increase. However, says Vandana, this is a reminder that prenatal vitamins and the nutrients they provide are one of many factors that can influence the development of autism.
Given the safety, low cost and benefits of prenatal vitamins, Vandana encourages future moms to take them as soon as possible.
"It's an easy thing to do … and it could actually help, even when the odds are against you."