An estimated 1 in 88 U.S. children are on the autism-spectrum, according to Autism Speaks, making it more frequent than diabetes, AIDS, cancer, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy or Down syndrome combined. Though a single cause for autism is still yet to be discovered, experts at the Mayo Clinic and autism organizations worldwide agree that genetics and environmental factors both play a role in its development.
Whether you’re already pregnant or trying to conceive, follow these tips recommended by the Autism Research Institute to give your baby-to-be the best possible prenatal start. Ideally, a woman should give herself 6 months to 1 year to improve her diet and lifestyle before trying to conceive, but it is never too late to begin reaping the rewards of living a healthier life.
Before Conceiving and During Pregnancy
- Exercise regularly
- Reduce or remove caffeine completely from your diet
- Use only green cleaning and personal products–this includes a green dry cleaning company
- Take a daily supplement of folic acid in addition to a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin
- Add a source of animal-based Omega-3s to your diet, such as a mercury-free fish oil supplement or krill oil
- Drink from stainless steel bottles instead of plastic bottles
- Minimize consumption of large fish
- Take a high-quality probiotic
- Open windows as often as possible to improve indoor air quality
- Have your vitamin D level checked and add a supplement if you’re deficient
- Eat a diet rich in colorful, organically grown foods
- Eat 80 grams of lean, organic sources of protein per day
- Reduce consumption of sugar and processed foods
- Have mercury fillings removed before conception, but avoid dental work while pregnant
- Avoid antibiotics and other prescription or over-the-counter medications
- Avoid unnecessary ultrasounds during pregnancy
- Minimize intrusive procedures during labor and delivery, such as Pitocin, pain medicines, early cord clamping, etc.
- Discuss the risks of receiving the flu shot with your OB
After Baby Arrives
- Continue your organic diet and drink 6-8 glasses of filtered water per day
- Breastfeed for one year, two if possible
- Wear your baby in a baby carrier as often as you can to increase bonding time
- Purchase an organic crib, mattress, toys, and baby clothing when available
- After 6 months of age, begin introducing only organic veggies and fruits to your baby
Though the disorder has roots in early brain development, signs and symptoms–like the loss of previously acquired skills, referred to as regression–are often not evident until a child is 12-18 months old. Keep an eye on your child’s developmental progress and discuss any concerns or abnormal behaviors with your pediatrician. Early diagnosis of Autism and intervention can increase the chances for improving your child’s life.