Despite developments in modern medicine and the copious amounts of research on the subject, Autism is a complex phenomenon that still baffles many experts. As we come to understand more about how being on the spectrum affects development and social behavior, we seem to have a better grasp on how to support individuals on the spectrum. Yet, we still seem to be missing something when it comes to the factors that influence and “cause” a child to be on the spectrum.
What we do know is that children with a family history of autism can be considered genetically predisposed to also developing autism. Recent studies also suggest that things that occur during pregnancy might alter the risk of autism in children who are genetically predisposed to it. So, what do you need to know about autism as it relates to pregnancy?
One study tell us that differences in the brain of a child with autism can be detected as early as the second trimester of pregnancy. This is further indication of the complex mystery of what “causes” autism. However, researchers do suggest that expecting mothers should do their best to control their exposure to certain environmental factors during their pregnancy if they can.
When they refer to environmental factors, this term extends to all things that aren’t considered genetic. For example, the foods you consume (including what they are made of and how they are prepared), the daily routine you live out, the amount of exercise one gets, and any other factor that either exposes you to a chemical or substance or effects your biology is considered an environmental factor in this case.
Some of the advice includes:
Reduce Exposure to Mercury
Exposure to mercury can come from eating fish, coming into contact with quicksilver, and the use of certain skin creams, especially those meant to “lighten” the skin. Though avoiding quicksilver and questionable skin creams is straightforward enough, avoiding fish can be a bit harder. Experts say to follow the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines and other fish and mercury guides like the one here.
Reduce Exposure to Pesticides
The most common way to be exposed to pesticides is by consuming produce that is contaminated with pesticides. Exposure to pesticides can contribute to a slew of prenatal growth and development defects, including impaired neurodevelopment. To reduce exposure, wash your produce very thoroughly and choose natural and organic when you can. If you or a family member frequents a garden that uses pesticides, leave the shoes at the door to avoid tracking the chemicals inside.
Eat non-processed, Organic and Natural Foods
Diet and nutrition can play a very important part in your child’s prenatal development. As a general rule, experts say to do your best to avoid heavily processed foods with additives and preservatives. This means eating foods with few ingredients that are natural and opting for organic when you can. This step can help with avoiding the other environmental factors we’ve listed.
Get enough Iron
Many studies prove that Iron deficiency can have adverse effects on a child’s development. Though many of us will get the appropriate amount of iron through our normal consumption habits, it is not uncommon to need an iron supplement during pregnancy. In fact, the best way to make sure you have enough iron involves being conscientious of the foods you eat and taking a daily iron supplement as long as your doctor deems it appropriate.
It is important to remember that the “causes” of autism are still largely unknown. Following these tips does not guarantee anything, but they are proven ways to help aid the healthy development of your child.
As with any advice and health tips, you should always consult your doctor or other medical professional to find the best ways to stay healthy before, during and after pregnancy. For more autism-related news and tips, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on our contact page, visit our blog, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.