Multivitamins taken during pregnancy could reduce autism risk

By Julie Griffiths on 10 January 2018 Antenatal / Prenatal Fetal Abnormalities / Birth Defects

A new study has found that women who take multivitamins and folic acid before and during pregnancy are significantly less likely to have a child who goes on to develop autism spectrum disorder.

The study, which was published in JAMA Psychiatry, followed 45,300 Israeli children (22,090 girls and 23,210 boys) born in 2003 to 2007. 

Researchers checked for a diagnosis of autism up until January 2015 (the mean age of the children was 10 years) and during this time, 572 (1.3%) children received a diagnosis of autism.

The results showed a 61% reduced risk of autism when mothers had taken either a multivitamin and/or folic acid supplement prior to becoming pregnant. It was also found that mothers who took these vitamin supplements during pregnancy were 73% less likely to have a child who went on to be diagnosed as autistic.

Dietician Dr Carrie Ruxton from the Health and Food Supplements Information Service said: ‘While this is an observational study and we need to be cautious, it is an important finding which contributes to our body of knowledge on factors linked with autism.'

She added: ‘Around 75% of women of childbearing age in the UK have an inadequate folate status putting their children at risk of neural tube disorders, such as spina bifida. Only a quarter of women take the recommended folic acid supplements before conception and in the first trimester of pregnancy. It is possible, given these new findings, that a lack of key nutrients may also be an issue for autism risk.’

Read the full study here.