Can what you eat during pregnancy affect whether your baby has autism?

July 03, 2013 12:00 AM by

Women who are getting ready for baby understand how essential it is to eat properly, as practicing good nutrition habits can guarantee that babies receive all the vitamins and minerals they need for healthy development.

However, a recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that moms-to-be should be especially vigilant about the kinds of foods they eat during pregnancy because it could impact whether or not their children are born with autism.

"Our results provide preliminary evidence that increased maternal intake of omega-6 fatty acids could reduce risk of offspring [autism spectrum disorder], and that very low intakes of omega-3 fatty acids and linoleic acid could increase risk," researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health wrote in their study.

According to the results, moms who eat foods rich in linoleic acid – a type of omega-6 fatty acid that is found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds – were 34 percent less likely to have a child with autism than those who did not.

Most experts urge women who are pregnant to eat 200 milligrams of Docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, daily. Fish like salmon and herring, which are also low in mercury, are typically good sources of this.

Signs of autism
For women who are expecting a first child, trying to make sure that little ones are born in the best conditions possible can be essential for ensuring that he or she has long-term health.

Autism is a condition that can affect many aspects of a child's life, yet determining early on that a little one is autistic can be essential for providing him or her with a better quality of life.

"Early discovery and intervention can make a huge difference, so be aware of any delays your baby is experiencing and discuss them with your pediatrician," Susan Hyman, M.D., division chief of neurodevelopmental and behavioral pediatrics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, told Parenting magazine.

What are some signs that moms and dads should be on the lookout for once babies are born? While it's important to reach out to a healthcare provider if you have concerns, a few behavioral habits, like a baby not laughing by six months of age, or not responding to his or her name by the first year, may indicate your child is impacted by autism.

If your little one has yet to speak by 14 months of age, this can also be a sign that he or she is affected by a condition on the autism spectrum.

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