The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is reporting in a new study that folic acid use during pregnancy may reduce autism risk.
Researchers in Norway reviewed records of 85,000 children and discovered that if mothers were taking folic acid at the time of conception, they were 2.1 times less likely to have children with autism.
Pål Surén, MD, MPH; Christine Roth, MSc; Michaeline Bresnahan, PhD; Margaretha Haugen, PhD; Mady Hornig, MD; Deborah Hirtz, MD; Kari Kveim Lie, MD; W. Ian Lipkin, MD; Per Magnus, MD, PhD; Ted Reichborn-Kjennerud, MD, PhD; Synnve Schjølberg, MSc; George Davey Smith, MD, DSc; Anne-Siri Øyen, PhD; Ezra Susser, MD, DrPH; Camilla Stoltenberg, MD, PhD
Objective To examine the association between maternal use of prenatal folic acid supplements and subsequent risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) (autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder–not otherwise specified [PDD-NOS]) in children.
Design, Setting, and Patients The study sample of 85 176 children was derived from the population-based, prospective Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa). The children were born in 2002-2008; by the end of follow-up on March 31, 2012, the age range was 3.3 through 10.2 years (mean, 6.4 years). The exposure of primary interest was use of folic acid from 4 weeks before to 8 weeks after the start of pregnancy, defined as the first day of the last menstrual period before conception. Relative risks of ASDs were estimated by odds ratios (ORs) with 95% CIs in a logistic regression analysis. Analyses were adjusted for maternal education level, year of birth, and parity.
Main Outcome Measure Specialist-confirmed diagnosis of ASDs.
Results At the end of follow-up, 270 children in the study sample had been diagnosed with ASDs: 114 with autistic disorder, 56 with Asperger syndrome, and 100 with PDD-NOS. In children whose mothers took folic acid, 0.10% (64/61 042) had autistic disorder, compared with 0.21% (50/24 134) in those unexposed to folic acid. The adjusted OR for autistic disorder in children of folic acid users was 0.61 (95% CI, 0.41-0.90). No association was found with Asperger syndrome or PDD-NOS, but power was limited. Similar analyses for prenatal fish oil supplements showed no such association with autistic disorder, even though fish oil use was associated with the same maternal characteristics as folic acid use.
Conclusions and Relevance Use of prenatal folic acid supplements around the time of conception was associated with a lower risk of autistic disorder in the MoBa cohort. Although these findings cannot establish causality, they do support prenatal folic acid supplementation. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1570279
One of the implications of this study is the necessity that women receive adequate prenatal care and women really should have pre-pregnancy counseling and care.
United Health Foundation reports Prenatal Care (1990 – 2011): Percentage of pregnant women receiving adequate prenatal care, as defined by Kessner Index:
Prenatal care is a critical component of health care for pregnant women and a key step towards having a healthy pregnancy and baby. Early prenatal care is especially important because many important developments take place during the first trimester, screenings can identify babies or mothers at risk for complications and health care providers can educate and prepare mothers for pregnancy. Women who receive prenatal care have consistently shown better outcomes than those who did not receive prenatal care. Mothers who do not receive any prenatal care are three times more likely to deliver a low birth weight baby than mothers who received prenatal care, and infant mortality is five times higher. Early prenatal care also allows health care providers to identify and address health conditions and behaviors that may reduce the likelihood of a healthy birth, such as smoking and drug and alcohol abuse. http://www.americashealthrankings.org/All/PrenatalCare/2012
Given this recent study it is imperative that ALL women receive prenatal care particularly poor and those women at risk of difficult pregnancies.
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