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Autism: Can You Prevent it During Pregnancy?

Katlyn Joy |30, June 2014


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 68 children have an autism spectrum disorder. This number is culled from research in 11 US communities in looking at 8 year olds. This is a steep increase from the 2002 numbers, when it was 1 in 150.

Autism, according to the CDC, is defined as a group of developmental disabilities affecting communication, social and behavioral problems. Nearly half of children with ASD have average or above average intelligence. While children can be diagnosed by age 2, most are not diagnosed until after age 4.

4 Risk Factors for Autism

1. Having a sibling with the disorder is a risk factor. Parents who have had one child with ASD have a 2 to 18 percent chance of having a second child with it.

2. Those with conditions that are genetically or chromosomally based have an increased risk of autism. These conditions include Down syndrome or fragile X syndrome.

3. Genetics is a big player in autism. Some researchers believe genetics are to blame in 90% of cases.

4. Environmental factors may play a significant role in the other 10% cases.

Environmental Risk Possibilities

While there is not a great deal of hard data backing up all these concerns, there have been red flags raised over the following:

PFCs or perfluorinated compounds

Exposure to fumes of substances such as pesticides, fungicides, fresh paint, solvents, new furniture, fabrics and cars. All of these can contain PFCs or perfluorinated compounds.

Products with strong fragrances or chemicals

Use of personal hygiene products that contain strong fragrances or chemicals. These products would include body wash, shampoo, lotions and some perfumes. Choose natural products and those with a safer chemical background.

Oily fish consumption during pregnancy

Limit consumption of oily fish including tuna. The reason to watch your diet for these is that the chemical DDT or ichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane and PCB or polychlorinated biphenyls accumulates in the fat tissues of these fish. Also, mercury and lead are frequently found in these fish.

Not taking prenatal vitamins

One study notes that taking a prenatal vitamin decreases the chances of the infant developing ASD by 40 percent. It's important that the vitamin contains folate as well as the omega-3 fatty acid DHA.

Not being immunized

You should get immunized for German measles, or rubella, before getting pregnant. Some researchers recommend no flu shots during pregnancy, but that is more controversial.

Taking medications during pregnancy

Be very careful about any medications you take while pregnant, and that includes prescription drugs. Certain drugs are known to have high risks such as some antidepressants, anti-psychotics, and seizure disorder medications.

Other products

Maureen McDonnell, RN, recommends avoiding these substances as well: caffeine, alcohol and tobacco before getting pregnant. She advises women to adopt green cleaning habits and products also. Don't use plastic water bottles, and instead opt for stainless steel water bottles. Insist on only using green dry cleaners for your clothing and eat an organic food diet.

Tips for Preventing Autism During Pregnancy

  • Avoid a fatty or high sugar diet. Instead, maintain a healthy diet with plenty of organic fruits and vegetables.
  • Be certain you are not deficient in vitamin D. Many are deficient without even realizing it, and the vitamin is becoming associated with more and more important health benefits.
  • Only take antibiotics when truly necessary, and avoid over the counter medications as much as possible. For instance, instead of routinely popping an acetaminophen, try a cool compress and a dark room.
  • Stay active while pregnant, and if you were a couch potato before, start a gradual exercise program under a doctor's advice.
  • Know what types of possible environmental hazards may exist at your workplace.
  • Make certain your home has no air pollution. Make sure it's well-ventilated and have a radon test.
  • Get plenty of protein in your diet. Go for lean beef rather than greasy hamburgers day in and day out. Think of all the other sources such as legumes, nuts, and whey protein.
  • Treat all conditions, and get them under control before getting pregnant. The healthier you are before conception, the better.
  • Finally, take good care of yourself, use common sense about your lifestyle choices, and stop worrying. Stress isn't good for you or baby!

Related Articles

Can the Flu During Pregnancy Lead to Autism?

Pregnancy Skin - Get That Pregnancy Glow

Chicken Pox and Pregnancy

Emotional Changes During Pregnancy and Beyond

How to Sleep Better During Pregnancy


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