Prenatal Vitamins May Prevent Autism

Autism may be prevented by taking prenatal vitamins prior to becoming pregnant

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It's common knowledge that prenatal vitamins are beneficial for healthy child development. A new study suggests that taking vitamins before pregnancy may actually help prevent autism.

Most pregnant women are encouraged to take prenatal vitamins because they help the baby's brain development. Now researchers are finding that beginning a vitamin regimen before pregnancy may lower risks of having a child with autism spectrum disorder. This practice is particularly beneficial for women who have genetic risks for autism.

"Taking prenatal vitamins before pregnancy may help prevent autism."

"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," said Rebecca J. Schmidt, the lead study author from the Department of Public Health Sciences at the UC Davis School of Medicine.

The five year study included 700 Northern California families with autistic children between ages 2 and 5. All the data collected came from mothers themselves, so there may be a reporting bias.

Schmidt and colleagues discovered that prenatal vitamins are especially effective for mothers who are at higher genetic risk of having an autistic child.

They found that mothers-to-be in this group who did not take prenatal vitamins before and during early pregnancy, had a 7 times greater greater risk of having a child with autism.

Prenatal vitamins contain many of the B vitamins which protect against proper brain development. Folic acid, one of the B vitamins, has been found to be 70 percent effective in preventing neural tube defects.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 25, 2011
Last Updated:
May 27, 2011