Does Taking Vitamin D During Pregnancy Reduce the Risk of Autism?

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are becoming more common in children — could vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy be a culprit?

By OBGYN Dr. Kenosha Gleaton

Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin,” is a fat-soluble vitamin that is found in some foods, supplements, and is produced through ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Vitamin D is crucially involved in neurodevelopment, and vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy may impact a developing fetus’s brain, leading to possible adverse neuropsychological disorders like Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy and autism

It has been reported that vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy could be a risk factor for ASD in the child. But clinical research on this topic is limited, and most of the studies are in animal models, or small human studies.

One small prospective study from Oregon Health & Science University followed pregnant mothers who already had one or more children diagnosed with autism. The mothers took 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily during pregnancy, and 7,000 IU daily while breastfeeding. Because the children had siblings with ASD, the expected recurrence rate was 20%. However, by the time the children in the study were over three years old, only 5% had autism.

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