We are in a time of unprecedented scientific power. We can test embryos and eliminate disease before pregnancy even occurs. We can control when and how babies are born and how many are born at once. Since the start of the science explosion in the 1960s, we've gained a lot of knowledge and technical ability to eliminate disease, particularly in assisted reproduction. Diseases whose cause can be clearly identified can largely be diagnosed and treated today.
For example, we know cervical cancer is caused by the HPV virus. We now vaccinate children and teens, giving us the potential to eliminate cervical cancer, much like small pox was virtually eliminated by vaccination in the 1970s. Another example is our ability to identify embryos that have the Huntington Disease gene. Through IVF and embryo testing, we can eliminate embryos that contain it.
There remain many diseases that we just don't know enough about to prevent or even treat well. An example is autism. Autism is not caused by a single gene, a single food item, a single virus, etc (as far as we know in 2014). Couples often ask me about autism, wondering if there is something they can do to reduce the chance their child will have it. Currently there isn't anything we can do to eliminate the risk, but there is now very good evidence that taking folic acid in the four weeks prior to conceiving and in the first eight weeks of pregnancy can reduce the risk.
A Norwegian study published in JAMA in 2013 observed that if a woman did not take folic acid, there was a 0.21% chance her child would have autism, but if she did take folic acid, the risk was about half (0.1%). The dose of folic acid was 0.4mg. In Canada we recommend 0.4 to 1.0mg of folic acid daily for women planning to conceive.
If you wish to read the study, it's linked here. Other (smaller) studies have also found a similar association so we can be confident saying "take folic acid to reduce the risk your child will have autism." You can take it as a single tablet or in a prenatal vitamin (e.g. Materna contains 1mg of folic acid).
Until science allows us to identify a single cause or trigger of autism (if it exists), this is the easiest way to help.
Inclusion of all gender and sexually diverse people is an important value of Olive Fertility Centre. We are continuously striving to create an environment of compassionate belonging where all of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community are supported, valued and respected.
Olive Fertility Centre resides on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Tsleil-waututh Nations (Vancouver and Surrey clinics), of the Lekwungen people (Victoria clinic), of the syilx/Okanagan people (Kelowna clinic) and of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation (Blossom Fertility clinic in Prince George).
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