The CDC recently released new autism statistics stating that one in 88 U.S. children has some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder. My daughter has Asperger Syndrome, the mildest and most high functioning form of autism, and our journey has not been easy. We are so fortunate that we intervened early and most of her more extreme symptoms are now a thing of the past, but we continue to manage her sensory issues and accompanying anxiety on a daily basis. While I believe my daughter’s issues are largely genetic, if I were planning to expand my family, I would take extra precautions during pregnancy to reduce my risk of having another child with the disorder.
While these precautionary measures can’t completely eliminate the risk of learning and behavioral disorders in children, they all point to a mother who is as healthy as possible during conception and pregnancy, which is always a good thing for mother and baby. The following are some guidelines to consider based on my research about Autism Spectrum Disorder:
- Get to or maintain a healthy weight and reduce your sugar intake before conception if possible. Recent research suggests that maternal obesity and gestational diabetes may increase your risk of having a child with autism.
- Take prenatal vitamins with plenty of folic acid well before you plan to conceive. Some studies have indicated that prenatal vitamins can decrease the risk of having a child with autism and other developmental disorders.
- If possible, start a family before you enter your 30s. It’s no secret that as women age, their eggs become less viable. Now a recent study suggests that the age of the father may also be a risk factor for having a child with autism, particularly for a man over the age of 35.
- Avoid pesticides. Research indicates a host of issues are present among children exposed to pesticides in utero, and specifically there may be a link to autism. It is simply not worth the risk.
- Avoid BPA and other hormone disrupters as much as possible. Ditch plastic containers and choose glass instead. Also avoid flame retardant chemicals as they have been linked to autism. Click here to read more about enjoying a green pregnancy.
Once your baby is born, make eye contact and talk to your baby as much as possible. Meaningful interaction with your baby will help his or her developing brain make important connections. When its age appropriate, get on the floor with your baby as he or she develops core strength and crucial motor movements. If your child is missing milestones, be sure to talk with your health care provider.
At Babyminding, we encourage you to do your own research and learn all you can about reducing your risk of having a child with autism. While there is no sure-fire way to prevent the disorder, taking care of yourself and your baby before and after conception can go a long way in reducing your risk.