HealthDay News — Maternal prenatal vitamin intake during the first month of pregnancy is associated with a reduced risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in siblings of children with ASD, according to a study published online February 27 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Rebecca J. Schmidt, PhD, from the University of California in Davis, and colleagues examined the correlation between maternal prenatal vitamin use and ASD recurrence risk in younger siblings of children with ASD. Data were included for 332 children with ASD and their 305 mothers. A total of 241 younger siblings at high risk for ASD completed a final clinical assessment within 6 months of their third birthday.

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The researchers found that 95.9% of mothers reported taking prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, but only 36.1% took prenatal vitamins in the six months before pregnancy. The prevalence of ASD was 14.1 and 32.7% in children whose mothers did and did not take prenatal vitamins in the first month of pregnancy, respectively. Compared with children whose mothers reported not taking prenatal vitamins, those whose mothers reported taking prenatal vitamins during the first month of pregnancy had a lower likelihood of receiving an ASD diagnosis (adjusted relative risk, 0.50). They also had significantly lower autism symptom severity (adjusted estimated difference, −60) and higher cognitive scores (adjusted estimated difference, 7.1).

“These findings, if replicated, could have important public health implications for affected families,” the authors write.

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