Autism Awareness Day: Tips for pregnant women to reduce autism risk | Health - Hindustan Times
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World Autism Awareness Day: Lifestyle changes for expecting mothers to reduce risk of autism in babies

By, New Delhi
Apr 01, 2023 05:04 PM IST

While autism is genetic in origin and there is no known cure for it, certain lifestyle changes during pregnancy may help reduce risk of the condition in babies.

World Autism Awareness Day is observed on April 2 every year. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects a person's ability for social communication and behaviour and while its origin is usually genetic and there is no cure for it, one can reduce risk of their child developing the condition by making some important lifestyle changes. (Also read: Virtual Autism: Can too much screen time make your child autistic? Expert take)

According to studies, higher maternal intake of certain nutrients and supplements can reduce risk of autism.(Shutterstock)
According to studies, higher maternal intake of certain nutrients and supplements can reduce risk of autism.(Shutterstock)

According to studies, higher maternal intake of certain nutrients and supplements can reduce risk of autism. Several studies also demonstrate significant increase in ASD risk with exposure to air pollution during the prenatal period, particularly for heavy metals and particulate matter. It is important for pregnant women to be regular with their prenatal appointments and be updated about how their child is growing. If a child is diagnosed with ASD, early intervention can help improve their social and communication skills.

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"While there is no known cure for ASD, early diagnosis and intervention can improve the quality of life of individuals with the disorder. To note there is no sure way to prevent autism during pregnancy, there are some important steps that expecting mothers can take to reduce the risk of their child developing the condition. It usually affects children before 3 years of life and boys are prone four times more than girls," says Dr Madhu Juneja, Senior Consultant, OB-GYN, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Pune, Kalyani Nagar MBBS MS (Obgy).

Here are steps expecting mothers can take as per Dr Juneja to prevent autism in babies:

Regular check-ups

Attending prenatal appointments is crucial to ensure that the pregnancy is progressing as it should be. Your doctor can identify any potential problems and thereby provide guidance to maintain a healthy pregnancy. The list of screening tests can identify any potential issues with the foetus. This can include genetic testing, which can identify if the baby is at higher risk for autism. Early detection can lead to early intervention and improved outcomes.

Diet and exercise

Expecting mothers should prioritise their own health during pregnancy. This includes eating a healthy diet, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep. Good diet and meditation or exercise reduce stress, which can have a negative impact on the baby's development. Research suggests that materna stress during pregnancy can increase the risk of ASD.

Avoid exposure to harmful substances

Exposure to harmful substances during pregnancy can increase the risk of developmental disorders, including ASD. To reduce the risk expecting mothers should avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, and using drugs. Exposure to environmental toxins, such as lead, can also increase the risk of developmental disorders as stated in multiple studies and diagnosed on ultrasound during pregnancy.

Get vaccinated

There is a common myth that vaccines can cause autism. However, this has been thoroughly debunked by numerous studies. In fact, getting vaccinated can actually reduce the risk of certain illnesses that can increase the risk of developmental disorders. Expecting mothers should accept the recommended vaccine in pregnancy

Monitor your daily foetal movements count in womb

Monitoring your baby's movements can help identify any potential problems with their development. Expecting mothers should pay attention to their baby's kicks and movements and report any concerns to their healthcare provider. If the baby is not moving as much as expected, it could be a sign of a problem.

Seek support

Pregnancy can be a stressful and emotional time, and having a strong support system can help reduce stress and improve outcomes. Mothers can also seek support from healthcare providers, online support groups, and online communities etc where they open up with their common issues.

Early intervention

Early intervention is crucial for improving outcomes for children with ASD. If a child is diagnosed with ASD, early intervention can help improve their social and communication skills. Parents should speak with their healthcare provider if they have concerns about their child's development.

"In conclusion, while there is no guaranteed way to prevent autism during pregnancy, there are steps that expecting mothers can take to reduce the risk. Attending prenatal appointments, taking care of yourself, avoiding exposure to harmful substances, getting vaccinated, monitoring your baby's movements, seeking support, and early intervention can all contribute to improving outcomes for both the mother and baby," concludes Dr Juneja.

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