Is There a Link Between Iron Deficiency in Pregnancy and Autism?

Iron Deficiency in Pregnant Women Linked With Autism in Children

Children have a five times higher risk of developing autism if their mother had an iron deficiency, combined with an older age and other risk factors during her pregnancy, new research from the UC Davis MIND Institute shows.

“Iron is crucial to early brain development,” Rebecca J. Schmidt, an assistant professor at UC Davis and a researcher affiliated with the MIND Institute said in a statement.

The study, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that this risk was especially associated with women who had a low iron intake and had a metabolic condition like obesity hypertension or diabetes, or were 35 years old or older.

Forty to 50 percent of pregnant women have an iron deficiency, Schmidt said in the statement. Even so, it is linked to crucial brain development in three specific pathways that have been shown to be associated with autism, the study explains.

Each mother in the study had her daily iron intake via vitamins, supplements, and fortified breakfast cereals examined, “three months prior to through the end of the women’s pregnancies and breastfeeding,” the news release explained.

This is the first study of its kind and Schmidt stressed the importance of taking this information with a grain of salt as it needs to be replicated again in larger scale groups.

“In the meantime the takeaway message for women is do what your doctor recommends,” she said in the statement. ”Take vitamins throughout pregnancy, and take the recommended daily dosage. If there are side effects, talk to your doctor about how to address them.”

Try some of our tips to feed your baby’s brain during pregnancy.

Your First Prenatal Visit and Tests
Your First Prenatal Visit and Tests
Your First Prenatal Visit and Tests

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Here’s What the CDC’s Breastfeeding Report Card Revealed…

Breastfeeding

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that women breastfeed for at least their baby’s first year, but according to a recent survey, just over a quarter of moms nationwide hit that mark.

While overall breastfeeding rates are on the rise—79 percent of American women reported that they breastfed their newborn at some point during 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this number drops off significantly as the child grows older. After six months, 49.4 percent of women continued to breastfeed, but after 12 months it was down to 26.7 percent.

Vermont, Alaska and Utah had some of the highest rates of breastfeeding at 12 months (between 40 and 45 percent participation) while Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana had some of the lowest rates (between 10 and 12 percent participation), though the study does not suggest a cause or explanation for this.

This data was compiled as part of the CDC’s annual Breastfeeding Report Card and is part of the breastfeeding goals explained in the Healthy People 2020 campaign that aims to have 81.9 percent of women breastfeeding by 2020 and 34.1 percent of women continuing to breastfeed through 12 months.

Breastfeeding has been shown to have many benefits for both baby and mom, like reducing the chance of your little one developing allergies and eczema, lowering the chance of SIDS and protecting against diseases like type 1 diabetes and spinal meningitis; meanwhile, it can help you lose pregnancy weight, decreases your chances of getting ovarian and breast cancer.

Having trouble breastfeeding? Read about the four most common breastfeeding discomforts and how to solve them. And also, take our quiz to find out your breastfeeding IQ.

Common Breastfeeding Myths
Common Breastfeeding Myths
Common Breastfeeding Myths

Photo of baby nursing courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Are You and Your Kids Getting Flu Shots This Year?

Flu VaccineWith flu season just around the corner, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases held a press conference today urging everyone older than 6 months of age to get a vaccine this season.

While flu vaccination levels are up overall in the past few years, they’re not at the levels health officials want them to be, the NFID reports. But the good news is that 70 percent of kids under age 5 received a flu vaccine in the 2013-2014 season. (The flu can cause serious complications even in kids and adults who are considered otherwise “healthy,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

“Influenza vaccines are safe, plentiful and we have more vaccine options than ever before,” Dr. William Schaffner, past-president of NFID, said in a statement. “At least one is right for everyone.”

This press conference comes after a CDC recommendation last month that healthy kids ages 2-8 receive the nasal spray vaccine (pictured above) if it’s immediately available and there are no precautions for the specific child. (If it’s not available, don’t shop around—officials stress that getting any form of the vaccination is better than nothing.) It’s also important for kids younger than 9 to get vaccinated because some might need a second dose four weeks later to have “optimal protection,” the CDC stated in a press release.

Pregnant women are especially encouraged to get a vaccine because catching the flu “doubles the risk of fetal death, increases the risk of premature labor and increases the mother’s risk of hospitalization,” according to the NFID. And, the vaccine offers protection against flu to babies who are too young to get vaccinated.

In addition to the vaccination, it is still important to maintain proper hygiene and prevention practices like frequent hand washing, avoiding those who are sick, and staying home when you’re sick.

Have you and your children gotten vaccinated yet? If you’re on the fence about it, check out the four biggest flu myths and, if you’re not sure what kind of vaccine is appropriate for you or your family, always remember to consult your healthcare provider with any questions.

What You Should Know About the Flu
What You Should Know About the Flu
What You Should Know About the Flu

Photo of child receiving flu vaccination courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Good News for Early Childhood Care!

Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 Passes in the HouseA bill that will help to make early childhood care safer and more affordable for low-income families passed in the U.S. House on Monday, Politico reports.

The bill, known as the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 (CCDBG) will require certification to guarantee that health and safety standards are being followed and includes policies like:

  • improved background checks for care providers
  • training for care providers in first-aid and CPR
  • using safe sleeping practices to prevent sudden infant death syndrome
  • training care providers on working with children with disabilities

While these are practices we would hope that a daycare center is already enacting, this law will require state certification and annual inspections, among other qualifications. The CCDBG was originally created 24 years ago and has only been updated once since then, in 1996, according to the Children’s Defense Fund. Re-introduced to Congress in 2013, it was passed by both Republican and Democrat supporters in the Senate in March in a 96-2 vote. An amended version of this bill passed on Monday in the House and next up, the Senate will vote again. If it passes it will go on to President Obama for his approval, according to ChildCare Aware.

This bill also seeks to make this care more affordable. The Children’s Defense Fund reports that the annual price tag on early childhood care for young children and infants costs more than attending in-state public college in 35 states and the District of Columbia.

“Whether going to work or school, a lot of parents have to decide who will care for their children and worry if they’ve made the right decision,” House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) said in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation will strengthen this important program to give working moms and dads greater access to quality, affordable child care.”

Are you thinking about putting your child in daycare? Make sure to ask these questions before you commit.

Child Care: Tips for Choosing a Good Day Care Center
Child Care: Tips for Choosing a Good Day Care Center
Child Care: Tips for Choosing a Good Day Care Center

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THIS Affects More Than 60 Percent of School-Age Kids…

Sugar Is Sole Culprit In Causing Tooth DecayMary Poppins may have had the wrong idea when she sang, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Consuming too much sugar (especially whole spoonfuls!) can mean a one-way ticket to the dentist’s chair—and unfortunately, hardly anyone escapes it, new research shows.

According to a new study published in the journal BMC Public Health, sugar is the lone culprit when it comes to causing tooth decay, which is actually classified as a chronic disease. And almost everyone in the U.S. is affected by it: 60 to 90 percent of school-age children have experienced tooth decay, and adults are even worse—92 percent of people ages 20 to 64 have experienced tooth decay in at least one of their teeth, TIME reports.

Besides over-consumption of things like soda, fruit beverages, and dessert items, sugar often hides in many pre-packaged and restaurant foods you would never expect.

One of the study’s co-authors, Professor Philip James, Honorary Professor of Nutrition at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and past President of the World Obesity Federation, made these suggestions in a statement:

“We need to make sure that use of fruit juices and the concept of sugar-containing treats for children are not only no longer promoted, but explicitly seen as unhelpful. Food provided at nurseries and schools should have a maximum of free sugars in the complete range of foods amounting to no more than 2.5% of energy.

“Vending machines offering confectionary and sugary drinks in areas controlled or supported financially by local or central government should be removed. We are not talking draconian policies to ‘ban’ such sugar-rich products, which are available elsewhere, but no publicly-supported establishment should be contributing to the expensive problems of dental caries, obesity and diabetes.”

The World Health Organization recently decreased its recommended sugar intake from 10 percent to 5 percent of a person’s daily caloric consumption, the BBC reports. But this study’s authors recommend no more than 3 percent.

Several Parents editors, inspired by Eve Schaub’s book “Year of No Sugar,” tried a day of no sugar a few months ago. Could you and your family do it?

How to Brush Baby's Teeth
How to Brush Baby's Teeth
How to Brush Baby's Teeth

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