A new study in the "Journal of the American Medical Association" suggests women who took folic acid before they became pregnant, may have reduced the risk of autism in their babies. Researchers in Norway followed 85-thousand children born between 2005 and 2008. If their moms took folic acid a month before pregnancy, their risk of having a baby who develops autism dropped 40%.
We visited Ob/Gyn Associates of Erie today, where a physician who just happens to be pregnant herself, and a nurse a nurse midwife say the new study just makes a stronger case for what they already know. Taking folic acid before and in the early stages of pregnancy can reduce the risk of birth defects, especially neural tube defects such as spina bifida. "It just shows why it's important to take a multi-vitamin everyday," said Dr. Sarah Achenbach. "Even if you're not pregnant if you are of child bearing age, you should be taking it every day just in case you do get pregnant."
"For many years we've told pregnant women, even prior to getting pregnant whether using birth control or not, they can reduce the risk of spina bifida," said Nurse Midwife, Kim Bennett. She added, "But it's very difficult to always ensure that they do that."
Folic acid is wrapped into the prenatal vitamins most women's doctors recommend. It's also in multi-vitamins, and even kids chewables for women who find those easier to swallow.
According to the March of Dimes Resource Center, here in the U.S. since 1998, the FDA has required the addition of 140 micrograms of folic acid to be added to grains, cereals, breads, pastas and other foods labeled "enriched." The recommended amount for an expectant mother is 400 micrograms. In addition to vitamins and enriched foods, folate, the natural form of folic acid is found naturally in orange and other citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, beans, peanuts, broccoli, asparagus, peas, lentils and whole grains.
Midwife Kim Bennett says foods are not fortified in Norway where the study was done. Even so she says she's glad the study is getting attention. She says it reinforces their longtime message to take those vitamins.