Taking Prenatal Vitamins in First Month of Pregnancy Can Reduce Autism Risk, Study Finds

Filed under: In The News, Pregnancy Health

pregnancy prenatal vitamins

Prenatal vitamins reduces chances of autism. Credit: Corbis

Doctors have been telling women for years to take their prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, but now there's new reason to start taking them before you even plan to have a baby.

A new study found women who did not take their prenatal vitamins right before and during their pregnancies were twice as likely to have an autistic child, the Los Angeles Times reports.


Researchers at the University of California Davis also found that if women have certain high-risk gene mutations, their chances of giving birth a to child with autism is up to seven times more likely, according to the newspaper.

The study, to be published in July in the online edition of Epidemiology, found women who took their prenatal vitamins before getting pregnant or during the first month of pregnancy were half as likely to give birth to an autistic child, but moms who didn't start taking the pills until they were two months pregnant didn't receive any benefits when it came to warding off the developmental disorder, the Times reports.

What this means: If you don't know you're pregnant until you're a couple months in, prenatals aren't going to fight off autism, according to the newspaper.

As for gene mutations that have been linked to a higher risk of autism, the Times reports women who didn't take prenatals and had the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene had a four and a half times greater than normal risk of having a child with autism, and women with the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene had a seven times greater risk.

"The good news is 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 a pregnancy," epidemiologist Irva Hertz-Picciotto, senior author of the study, tells the Times.

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