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Folic Acid & Pregnant Women

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Danesha Smith is 11 weeks pregnant with her second child.

"I feel great. A lot of energy, it's just been a wonderful experience."

She takes a prenatal multi-vitamin with folic acid. A large new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at 85,000 children in Norway. Researchers found mothers who took folic acid supplements before they conceived and during the first two months of their pregnancy… lowered their chances of having a child with autism 39%.

"It will lead to new ideas and new… potentially new ways to prevent autistic disorders," says Dr. Robert J. Berry of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Folic acid is already known to reduce the risk of brain and spine birth defects like spina bifida.

"It is not in any way dangerous to the patient. It is not costly. It is part of the standard of care, regardless, so we would definitely recommend it," says Dr. Maria Costantini-Ferrando.

Doctors recommend pregnant women, or women who are trying to become pregnant take 400 micrograms of folic acid a day, the amount typically found in a prenatal mutlivitamin.

Folic acid is found in foods, including leafy vegetables, citrus fruits and whole grains. But most women do not enough through food alone.

Danesha has been taking folic acid supplements since she started trying to get pregnant with her first child.

"We put a lot of focus on healthiness, being healthy, taking the right vitamins, eating well."

She's also trying to get more sleep and cut down on stress to help make sure she has a healthy baby.

The study did not find a link between folic acid and Asperger's syndrome which is on the autism spectrum and affects older children. Children in the study were between 3 and 10 years old, so more children could be diagnosed with Asperger's as they get older.

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