Autism is considered a neuro-developmental disorder that impairs normal social communication and restricts interests and repetitive behavior. It’s always frightening to imagine that your child might be included in the one in every 110 children in the United States to have a condition like this, and some are afraid that even after a child is born, it’s possible to develop autism.

For example, there’s been a lot of talk about whether vaccines lead to autism, but I see no evidence to suggest that something like autism occurs after birth. Reputable scientific research indicates that there is no known cause of autism, but it does seem to be something that children are born with. As early as 24 to 36 months, it’s possible to evaluate and diagnose which children have autism and which ones do not. You should recognize that autism in children is based on genetic variants, which means if a child develops autism, it will happen during pregnancy. 

Given the fact that the determining factor in a child having autism is the mother’s pregnancy, it’s perfectly reasonable for us as women to do what we can to prevent this condition from occurring in our children. One study proposed the possibility of preventing autism by having mothers take prenatal vitamins. There actually seems to be a correlation, where women who end up with autistic children more frequently report not taking prenatal vitamins than women in general.

It makes sense conceptually that women should do everything they can to create a healthy environment for a baby to develop in. When it comes to prenatal vitamins, it’s a good idea for women prior to pregnancy and during pregnancy to take vitamins like calcium, vitamins A, B and C, and most importantly, Omega-3 fatty acids. The reason is because Omega-3s are related to the development of a fetus’s brain, and autism is essentially a mistake in the growth of the brain.

Incidentally, men aren’t completely off the hook either. Since both men and women contribute to the growth of a fetus, a healthy sperm will have an impact on the baby’s health either. It’s unfortunate that there aren’t any guarantees, but taking prenatal vitamins is one important step you can take to help your unborn child’s chances of being born a beautiful, healthy baby.

Source: Schmidt, R. J. (July 1, 2012). Prenatal Vitamins, One-Carbon Metabolism Gene Variants, and Risk For Autism. In NCBI. Retrieved May 17, 2013.