Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex condition and even doctors are not yet sure what causes it. But they do believe genes have a huge role in determining whether a child is born with this disorder. There is still not a treatment for the disorder.
However, we know babies can be born with birth defects in cases where their mothers were exposed to certain rays or chemicals during pregnancy. But it’s still beyond the reach of doctors to say confidently – during the pregnancy stage itself – whether a baby will be autistic.
Thus, it’s not possible for doctors to prevent babies from autism, but they can definitely help during pregnancy to increase the chances of having healthy baby. Before reaching to that stage, parents should better know a few things –
- Changes can happen during conception, pregnancy and delivery which can increase the risk of autism among children genetically prone to the disorder
- Differences in the brains of autistic children can start appearing as early as the 2nd trimester of pregnancy
- Although a definite cause of ASD is not yet known, it’s believed that it develops from a combination, or interaction, of genetic and environmental factors
- While bringing changes t the genetics is beyond the reach, it’s very much possible to control certain environment factors like exposure to chemicals or adopting lifestyle changes, to lower the risk of autism
Here are some factors which can help decrease the risk of autism during pregnancy –
- Increase your iron intake
The risk of autism is five times more in children born to iron-deficient mothers, says a 2014 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Iron is vital to brain development in foetus and therefore its deficiency can definitely cause some disorders. Iron is also vital to the development of a child’s nervous system, particularly during pregnancy stage. That’s why pregnant ladies should take an iron-rich diet or iron-fortified supplement to minimize dangers of autism in the new-born.
- Reduceyour exposure to air pollution
Pregnant women who are consistently exposed to air pollution are more likely to deliver babies with autism. A study ay the Harvard School of Public Health established how the risk doubled when pregnant ladies were exposed to high levels of pollution. Obviously, exposure to air pollution is something that is very much in control and pregnant ladies can stay indoors as much as possible during those crucial phase to minimize risk of delivering baby with autism.
- Avoid gaining weight
There is a link between excess weight gain during pregnancy and autism, as suggested by November 2013 issue of Paediatrics from the University of Utah. In fact, a child’s risk of autism is likely to be associated with their mother’s pre-pregnancy BMI (body mass index) and weight gain during pregnancy. With excess body fat, there will always be changes to a woman’s hormone levels or excess fat can lead to inflammation that may affect fetal brain development.
- Keep blood sugar level under control
Expecting mothers with gestational diabetes are at more risk of having a child with autism, says the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Health experts say that a baby’s brain development is affected in-utero when he/she is exposed to high blood sugar level. This can also increase the risk for other developmental disorders. So, pregnant ladies should always try to keep their blood sugar level under control to minimize dangers of having children with autism.
- Stay away from certain medications
Certain medications taken during pregnancy can increase the risk of autism among babies. Two types of medications in particular – use of anti-depressants and medication for treating epilepsy – are linked to heightening the risk of autism in new-born. It’s therefore important for pregnant ladies to keep in touch with the doctor and assess the pros and cons of medications they are taking. This can help keep the risk of developmental disorders to low levels.
Clearly, prevention seems the only available treatment of autism which pregnant ladies can take and ensure low risks of the disorder in the new-born. If you’re pregnant, consult the doctor, discuss health concerns and then follow the routine and precautions set forth to minimize risk of autism in new-born.