Vitamin D Deficiency in Pregnancy Linked to Autism

By Lisa Pecos

The important role of vitamin D in a child’s early years was making headlines just last year after a study linked a lack of the vitamin to an increase in allergies and asthma in children. A new study has found the vitamin plays an important role before a baby is even born and has linked low levels of vitamin D to autism.

Autism is on the Rise

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in every 68 children or 1.5 percent of children was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). These numbers were based on the records of 8 year olds in 11 communities across the U.S. in 2012. Alarmingly, a more recent government study suggests that the number is considerably higher. According to the National Health Statistics Report published in 2015, 1 in 45 children between the ages of 3 and 17 having been diagnosed with ASD.

The Study

The study conducted by researchers at the Queensland Brain Institute in Australia, found that women who lack vitamin D during pregnancy are more likely to have a baby with ASD.

The study, which analyzed 4,200 blood samples taken from pregnant women and their babies, found that those who were low in vitamin D scored significantly higher on the autism scale than those with vitamin D levels in the normal range.

The findings show that pregnant women who with low vitamin D at 20 weeks gestation had an increased risk of having a child that shows autistic traits by the age of six.

The researchers are encouraging that vitamin D supplementation becomes a part of recommended prenatal care just as folate is.

What You Can Do

We already know that vitamin D plays a crucial role in your bone health, lowering the risk of osteoporosis and helping to maintain strong and healthy bones. It has also been linked to a lowered risk of certain cancers, depression, and multiple sclerosis.

While a healthy dose of sun exposure is an excellent source of vitamin D, a supplement may be the better route because of the risk of skin cancer or for those living in certain climates.

To ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D during pregnancy, consider adding fortified milk, cereal, and yogurt to your diet. Other foods that are excellent sources of vitamin D include:

  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Sardines
  • Mackerel
  • Egg yolk
  • Beef liver

You can also speak to your doctor about adding a vitamin D supplement during your pregnancy.