Study: Pregnant women who take too much folic acid could increase child’s odds of developing autism

Posted at 6:15 PM, May 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-12 20:16:03-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- There’s a growing concern over a new study that found pregnant women who take too much folic acid could increase the risk of autism in children.

We’ve heard for decades that women who are pregnant or plan on having a child should take folic acid to help protect babies from birth defects such as spina bifida, but new findings call that recommendation into question.

Whitney Steele, a Lehi mother of two, is trying to make sense of a new study put out by John Hopkins University.

Researchers looked at Folate and Vitamin B12 levels found in the blood of about 1,400 women. They found that women who had high levels of folate right after giving birth were twice as likely to have a child who developed autism.

Most of the women reported taking multi-vitamins during pregnancy. Doctors have recommended pregnant women take a multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.

Whitney says her doctor doubled her folic acid dosage, and her daughter Everly is thriving.

“I feel like there's always a news article coming out about something else, it's about using those instincts and best judgment," Steele said.

Researchers said they plan to do more studies to find out why levels were so high in some women. Until then, they’re not calling for any changes to current recommendations.

Dr. Karen Florio with Saint Luke’s Hospital says don’t throw out your supplements just yet.

“I would recommend that women do continue taking their prenatal vitamins because, again, what they showed was an association, not a cause and effect that folic acid, super therapeutic levels, cause autism," Florio said.

It’s important to note that the results are preliminary and based on a small number of families seen at one hospital. Also, the study hasn’t been fully vetted by other researchers.