Middle Child: Balancing ‘B’ to Avert Autism Disorders


When you’re a pregnant woman, much of your focus is fixed on your ever expanding midsection. But a recent study is making it clear to expectant mothers there’s another type of middle ground worth watching: Vitamin intake.

People who are pregnant have long been urged to get enough B vitamins. The nutrients are responsible for the neurodevelopment of the fetus, among other necessary benefits. But it’s not a case of “if a little is good, a lot must be better.”

High levels of folate and Vitamin B12 can increase the risk of autism in a newborn, according to a report by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. A study of new mothers found that those with four times the suggested amount of folate have twice the chance their child will develop an autism spectrum disorder. For women giving birth who have high levels of Vitamin B12, research shows their infants have three times the chance of being autistic.

When both Vitamin B12 and folate levels are too high in an expectant mother, the risk of a child developing an autism spectrum disorder rises to 17.6 times the normal rate.


Often referred to as folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, it is a common nutrient fortifying breads and cereals, and it’s also found as a natural ingredient in fruits and vegetables.

Folate is important in the growth of cells. Pregnant women who don’t get enough folate increase the risk of birth defects. One in four American women of reproductive age has an insufficient level of folate in her body, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is Autism?

Considered a neurological abnormality, the spectrum of autistic disorders are apparent over time and in various behaviors. It is often characterized by:

  • Social impairment
  • Abnormal communication
  • Repetitive behavior

“One in 68 children in the U.S. have the disorder, with boys five times more likely than girls to have it,” Johns Hopkins experts say.

Scientists are unsure of the exact cause of autism, and conclusions claim a combination of genetics and the environment.

The Study

With 1,391 mothers and children participating in the study, Johns Hopkins researchers analyzed data collected from 1998 to 2013, following the mothers and children for several years. When researchers initially checked folate levels in the mothers — within one to three days of delivery — 1 in 10 of the women had an excess amount of folate and six percent had an excess amount of Vitamin B12.

It’s possible that prenatal supplements contribute to the problem, creating an overabundance in vitamin consumption. Experts also theorize that, genetically, women have different abilities to absorb or metabolize folate.

Young parents aren’t used to aiming for the middle; they usually want their child to top the charts. But when it comes to levels of folate and Vitamin B in the body of their newborn, they’re hoping for a middle child.

Wifey by Donnie Ray Jones is licensed under CC BY 4.0

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