It’s always exciting when one of those recommendations that have long been accepted in prenatal care has been further proven. Today, a study was released by the Journal of the American Medical Association that showed groundbreaking results in a study about prenatal folic acid consumption.

Experts already agreed that taking folic acid during pregnancy could reduce the likelihood of neural tube defects in the fetus. In the study that was just released, women who took folic acid were 40% less likely to have a baby with autism than women who did not. Based on these results, doctors and patients alike should become more serious about their commitment to prenatal folic acid supplementation. Many prenatal vitamins already contain it, but it’s important that each pregnant woman makes sure she is getting the recommended amount.

In addition to supplements, folic acids can be found in some foods. Dark leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, citrus fruits, lentils, peas, beans, avocados, brussels sprouts, okra, seeds, beets, nuts, corn, cauliflower and celery are all high in folic acid. You should make these foods part of your regular pregnancy diet, as many of them contain other important nutrients anyway.

Doctors are not entirely sure what causes autism, so any evidence supporting its prevention is monumental. The condition is mysterious because it is caused by a chromosomal mutation. Autism will affect your child for the rest of his or her life and cause serious developmental problems, so you should be serious about preventing it as much as you can.

You now know that taking folic acid during your pregnancy is important. However, many experts agree that you should actually start even earlier than that. By getting high amounts of folic acid before your pregnancy even begins, your body will have enough on reserve to start supporting your baby’s growth right away. If you’re thinking of having a baby within the year, talk to your doctor about folic acid and how to get enough. It won’t require much of a lifestyle change. It might simply mean that you’ll have to adjust your diet slightly or start taking a multivitamin containing the acid.

You’re probably willing to do anything it takes to prevent autism in your child, so the news comes as a welcome surprise. Preventing autism might be easier than we might have thought. While the condition still remains a mystery, changing your diet can reduce your baby’s chances for it.

Source: Pal Suren et al: Association Between Maternal Use of Folic Acid Supplements and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children. The Journal of the American Medical Association Volume 309 Issue 6 2013