Posts Tagged ‘ prenatal vitamins ’

Folic Acid Taken in Pregnancy May Lower Autism Risk

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Mothers who take folic acid supplements before and during pregnancy may have babies with a lower risk of being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a new study published this week in Journal of the American Medical Association. has more on the study:

Researchers in Norway looked at data from 85,000 pregnancies, and found that women who took the supplement four weeks before pregnancy, and through the eighth week of pregnancy, were 39% less likely to have children with autism.

The Norwegian study is the largest to date on the benefits of folic acid for autism prevention, and marks one of the first tangible things a woman can do to reduce her risk of giving birth to a child with the disorder.

“This is pretty exciting,” said Alycia Halladay, senior director for environmental and clinical sciences for Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy group. “It actually supports the idea of actionable things women can do before they become pregnant, and right as conception happens.”

Experts have known for some time that taking folic acid can prevent neural tube birth defects like spina bifida in developing fetuses.  American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) guidelines call for all women of child-bearing age – not just those who plan to get pregnant – to take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to prevent birth defects.  The same dose appears to provide some benefit in preventing autism, according to the research.

The study supports earlier research from 2012 that found that women who take prenatal vitamins–which are rich in folic acid–also lower their babies’ autism risk by as much as 40 percent.

Image: Pregnant woman taking supplements, via Shutterstock

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DHA Supplements Taken During Pregnancy May Protect Infants from Colds

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

A new study has found that pregnant women who take docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplements during pregnancy have babies who are better able to fend off colds and other viruses than babies whose mothers did not take the supplements.  The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the March of Dimes Foundation, and was published in the September 2011 issue of the journal Pediatrics.  As reports:

[The study followed] 851 pregnant women in Mexico, about half of whom were randomly selected to receive daily DHA supplements of 400 milligrams starting no more than 22 weeks into the pregnancy. The rest received a placebo.

The researchers found that infants whose mothers took the supplement had fewer cold symptoms, including cough, phlegm, and wheezing, in their first month. At three months, these infants spent 14 percent less time ill. And after six months, the duration of various symptoms, including difficulty breathing and fever, was less. Duration of some symptoms, including rash within the first month, increased among the supplement group.

The authors suggested that DHA intake could help infants fight off infections that, in many places, contribute to childhood deaths.

DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid found in many ocean fish and available in the form of fish oil supplement capsules.

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Study: Prenatal Vitamins May Reduce Autism Risk 40 Percent

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Prenatal vitaminsA new study published in the journal Epidemiology found that women who take prenatal vitamins for three months before conception and in the first month of pregnancy may have reduced the risk of their child developing autism by 40 percent.  Autism is the spectrum of developmental disorders that affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans or one out of every 250 births.

The study found that women with gene variants that affect how they metabolize folate are more than 7 times more likely to have an autistic child if they do not take prenatal vitamins. Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) is one such gene variant, and it is detected with a simple blood test.  All prenatal vitamins contain the B vitamin folate, or its synthetic form folic acid.

“Taking prenatal vitamin supplements even before conception is a concrete step concerned parents can take,” Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto, the study’s senior author told The New York Times.

The March of Dimes already recommends women take prenatal vitamins, including at least 400 micrograms of folic acid, before conception to prevent neural tube defects including spina bifida.  In addition to taking supplements, the organization recommends these foods that are naturally high in folate:

  • Fortified breakfast cereals (look on the label to see if the cereal has been fortified with folic acid)
  • Lentils
  • Asparagus
  • Spinach
  • Black beans
  • Peanuts (only if you do not have a peanut allergy)
  • Orange juice (from concentrate is best)
  • Enriched breads and pasta
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Broccoli

Looking for more?  Here are more ways to feed your baby’s brain during pregnancy, and more information on the importance of folate and folic acid.

(image via:

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