Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy raises child autism risk

Earlier studies have found impaired language and motor development, and general intelligence, in children whose mothers were deficient in vitamin D while pregnant. In this study of 4,229 children and their moms, doctors measured mothers’ vitamin D levels halfway through pregnancy and in umbilical cord blood at birth.

At age six, parents completed behavioral questionnaires. Mothers whose vitamin D levels were lower than 10 nanograms per milliliter of blood (ng/ml) during pregnancy were more likely to have a child with autistic traits compared to mothers whose vitamin D levels were sufficient, which doctors defined as at or above 20 ng/ml. Children whose moms were deficient in vitamin D mid-pregnancy were 3.8 times more likely to exhibit autistic traits compared to kids of mothers with sufficient vitamin D levels.

The number of women deficient in vitamin D more than doubled from mid-pregnancy to birth; 16 percent to 36 percent. This finding is particularly important because the developing baby depends entirely on mother for its vitamin D supply. Doctors said supplementing with vitamin D while pregnant is a safe, accessible, and inexpensive way to reduce chances of children developing autism spectrum traits.

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