Here’s another reason expectant mothers should take their prenatal vitamins: a large study has found a reduced risk of autism spectrum disorder in children whose mothers took multivitamins while pregnant. The research was published in the BMJ and included data collected from 273,107 women with children who were born between 1996 and 2007 and were aged 4 to 15 by the time the study ended in 2011. At their first prenatal appointment, the women reported their use of folic acid, iron, and multivitamin supplements. Researchers compared this information with the incidence of autism spectrum disorder in the children during the study period, finding that:
Multivitamin use during pregnancy, with or without additional iron and/or folic acid supplementation, was associated with a lower risk of autism spectrum disorder with intellectual disability in children.
Specifically, 0.26% of children whose mothers took multivitamins, and 0.48% of children whose mothers did not take multivitamin, iron, or folic acid supplements while pregnant, developed autism spectrum disorder with intellectual disability.
Neither folic acid nor iron supplementation appeared to be associated with autism spectrum disorder risk.
This study reinforces the importance of taking multivitamins during pregnancy. It also adds to the body of conflicting information regarding possible connections between prenatal folic acid and iron supplementation and risk of autism spectrum disorder. While those relationships remain unclear, research has demonstrated that all of these vitamins are important for a healthy pregnancy. Specifically, prenatal multivitamins have been found to support full-term pregnancy, maternal folic acid intake has been associated with a lower risk of birth defects and better emotional health in toddlers, and maternal iron intake has been associated with a lower risk of having a baby with low birth weight. So, heed your doctor’s advice if they recommended a multivitamin for a healthy pregnancy and baby.