Can you prevent autism in the baby when you are pregnant? Read this to know!

When pregnancy test results come back positive, you want to do all you can to protect your baby from everything bad. This should also include protection from the Autism Spectrum Disorders or ASD. According to some doctors, chances of autism can be detected before birth.

Autism may happen when there are genetic factors at play. It may also happen because of environmental factors, or because of a combination of the two. While you can’t do much about preventing genetic issues, you can protect yourself from the environmental causes. Follow these tips to potentially prevent autism in your baby.

1. Avoid air pollution

One of the most convincing environmental association to autism risk is when a pregnant woman is exposed to significant levels of air pollution. According to some studies, the risk is higher as women are exposed to pollution in the third trimester. Which component of air pollution causes this is difficult to say, because it could be anything. But what you can do is, try to stay indoors as much as possible. If you have to go out, wear an anti-pollution mask. Plain surgical masks are not enough. Don’t go out in the mornings in winter if there is smog, and invest in an air purifier. Another excellent method to avoid exposure is to buy indoor plants that naturally clean the air.

2. Avoid toxic chemicals

It has been proven that there are increased chances of ASD in the babies of pregnant women who are exposed to toxic chemicals. If you work in a chemical lab, stop immediately! There is no consensus among scientists about which chemicals specifically increased the chances of ASD, but in general, avoid exposure to flame-retardants, plastics, toilet cleaners, floor cleaners, etc. Your doctor may tell you to limit having canned foods, plastic water bottles and not use cosmetics that have ‘fragrance’ as an ingredient.

3. What medicines are you on?

Antidepressants are known to increase the risks of ASD in babies, although it is not clear if the risk comes from the medicines or the mother’s depression. Medications used to treat epilepsy and other neurological disorders can also increase the risk for autism. If you are on any medication unrelated to your pregnancy, talk to the doctor and give a full history to ensure that nothing interferes with your pregnancy.

4. Space out your pregnancies

According to studies, pregnancies that are spaced between 2 and 5 years apart have the lowest risk of autism in the children. However, those conceived in less than a year have 50% higher chances of getting autism than those conceived in a 2-5 years gap. Those conceived after 5 years have a 30% chance of autism compared to the same bracket. However, autism risk increases with the parents’ ages and also, the older a woman, the more her fertility declines so check with the doctor.

5. Increase your intake of folic acid

Your doctor will probably give you folic acid supplements, but ask for them anyway. Reduced intake of folic acid, through diet or supplementation, may increase the chances of autism. Pregnant women are usually advised to have between 400-800 mcg of folic acid daily.

6. Take care of your health

Maternal health is very important for the child’s health, and therefore it is very important to take as much care as you can to ensure you are in good health. Mothers who get severely ill and require hospitalisation when pregnant have higher chances of having babies with ASD. Maternal infections during pregnancy are especially risky because they increase the chances of the child developing ASD. It is therefore important to take very good care of your healthy when you are pregnant. This means optimizing nutrition, taking prenatal vitamins as recommended by your obstetrician, avoiding exposure to unnecessary drugs and medications, and ensuring that your own vaccinations are up to date. Gestational diabetes, a condition that may develop at around 26 weeks is linked to an increased risk of ASD so talk to your doctor about the right plan or you and stick with it.

7. Relax!

At the end of the day, you have to realise that these are only preventive measures that can ‘potentially’ reduce the chances of ASD in the baby. But in most cases, ASD might be outside the control of the mother. Don’t stress over it, because you have to remain calm and have good mental health while you are pregnant. To be honest, no environmental factor is directly linked to increasing ASD, and can only be considered potential triggers only. However, it is always helpful to be aware of all the potential risks to your baby and avoid the basics such as exposure to chemicals, etc.


Feature image: Statistic Brain