Major Steps For Autism Prevention During Pregnancy

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a lifelong neurological developmental disorder characterized by cognitive deficits and impaired social and communicative development.

The term “spectrum” relates to a wide range of autism spectrum disorder symptoms, and it includes challenges in social skills, communication, and repetitive behaviours.

So, while some children with autism spectrum disorder may face difficulty when it comes to learning, there are children with autism disorder who may exhibit signs of lower-than-normal intelligence.

Given the varied symptoms of autism, both environmental and genetic factors have different roles in how the ultimate manifestation of the disorder plays out. Amidst environmental factors, experts have shown links between autism and pregnancy.

How is Autism Linked With Pregnancy and What are the Steps to Reduce it?

Parental exposure to adverse environmental factors, non-prescribed drugs, obesity, gestational diabetes, and insufficient pregnancy diet may increase the chances of autism in babies.

There may be no guaranteed way to prevent autism during pregnancy, but then there is nothing to fear also. There is growing recognition of the importance of autism prevention strategies during pregnancy.

So, to reduce the risk of autism during pregnancy, expectant parents need to be a little proactive and include a few strategies as an autism prevention method as has been mentioned below: 

Regular Check-ups During Pregnancy

Visiting the doctor is the norm during pregnancy. Through various scans and blood tests, pregnancy and foetal health development can be determined. Between the 12 and 20 weeks of pregnancy screening – chorionic villi sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis is done to check the amniotic fluid, placenta, and the foetus. Additionally, chromosomal microarray (CMA) is a prenatal genetic test that investigates the missing parts that may give rise to ASD.

Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle During Pregnancy

It is important to plan a healthy diet, stay fit, stay hydrated, and get enough rest during pregnancy to reduce the symptoms of autism. 

Eating Right

Amidst the healthy, balanced, and nutritious pregnancy diet including folic acid is of utmost necessity. Folate or folic acid during the early stages of pregnancy may help prevent brain and spine-related birth defects in the baby-to-be. A recommended amount of 600 and 800 mcg of folic acid is a must in your pregnancy diet! Along with folic acid iron intake is also helpful. 

Staying Active

A pregnant mother’s body weight should not be more than BMI ≥30 kg/m2. If the weight is more than the above given range she’s overweight. Studies have correlated maternal obesity as well as the high chances of autism during pregnancy. Obesity has been linked to chronic low-grade inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, which can potentially affect the development of the foetal brain and increase the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders like autism. Engaging in low–impact exercise like swimming, brisk walking, or practising prenatal yoga can keep the pregnancy weight in control. It’s also essential to consult the healthcare practitioner and include a few other exercises in the pregnancy regime.  

Staying Hydrated

It’s essential to stay hydrated, as dehydration in pregnancy can lead to serious complications such as less amniotic fluid volume, inadequate production of breastmilk, as well as preterm labour. As a result, the chances of birth defects like autism cannot be entirely denied.

Reducing Maternal Stress

Stress during pregnancy can impact the would-be-baby in several ways. The stress hormones are also known as cortisol hormones. They pass down from the placenta to the developing baby inside the womb. It affects the baby’s cognitive, behavioural as well as emotional problems which may ultimately give rise to Autism. To keep herself stress-free she can try out these natural remedies:

  • A pregnant mother needs to stay active and practice prenatal yoga and meditation to reduce her stress. 
  • A pregnant woman can join support groups and share each other’s emotional hassles. 
  • She can also attend counselling sessions. 

Getting Vaccinated for Maternal Infections

A pregnant mother’s immune response is specifically associated with the vulnerability of autism in the unborn baby. Getting properly immunised or vaccinated during pregnancy can reduce the risks of Autism. Otherwise, several studies have proven links between maternal infection and the chances of autism in the baby-to-be.

  • Studies have shown that, before the 1970s, certain diseases and infections during pregnancy like rubella, measles, and mumps were closely linked with the risk of bearing a baby with ASD in her womb. 
  • Some more studies conducted in California and Denmark have found the links of autism with maternal infection such as toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, and herpes during pregnancy. 

Reduced Pollution Exposure

There is a strong link between a pregnant woman’s exposure to air pollution and the risk of autism. Getting exposed to harmful chemicals like nitrogen dioxide, and ozone cannot be denied.

  • A study was conducted among 294,937 mother-child pairs in Kaiser Permanente Southern California hospitals who gave birth to single babies each. These children were clinically checked for ASD, as the risks were high when a pregnant mother was exposed to pollutants. So, a pregnant woman needs to be particularly careful during all the pregnancy stages.
  • Along with this, the baby inside the womb may not be positively affected even if during pregnancy, the pregnant woman passively smokes, or gets the smell of alcohol.

It’s always better to stay away from polluted areas, traffic, and smoke.  

But the best time and the best way to prevent autism during pregnancy is when the couples are planning their baby. Bringing about a little bit of order in their daily lifestyle, maybe by eating right, not drinking alcohol, not smoking, and not taking stress can be helpful. Addressing pre-existing health conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes can also work wonders. The childbearing age also matters a lot. While a woman’s fertility indeed begins to decline after their late 20s and early 30s, it becomes difficult for her to conceive, male fertility can also be affected by age – maybe after 40. So, it is always better to start family planning before hitting 30 and reduce the age-related risk of autism.