A new study examined whether a mother's taking folic acid before and after becoming pregnant affected her child's risk of developing autism. Researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health studied several thousand mothers and children to see whether folic acid supplements affected the development of autism.
They had mothers record all the dietary supplements that they were using and then, after the children were born, researchers identified cases of autism occurring among them.
Dr. Pal Suren said, "the women who took folic acid supplements in early pregnancy had a substantial reduction in risk of having a child with autism, the reduction was 40 percent."
According to Dr. Ezra Susser of Columbia University, "there's a sensitive period in which folic acid supplements need to be taken in order to reduce the risk of autism the period begins before pregnancy and continues approximately two months after pregnancy."
Also the study found taking the supplement at 22 weeks or mid-pregnancy did not lower the risk of autism. The same was true with women who took fish oil supplements.
Dr. Suren added, "this provides an additional reason to take folic acid supplements and it underlines the importance of starting early before the pregnancy has started."
It's actually recommended that all younger women take folic acid since many pregnancies are unintended. Researchers say although the study outcome is strong it is not conclusive and requires more investigation.