Background: Micronutrients are important for biological function. The demands of these micronutrients remarkably rise during pregnancy due to the growing needs of the fetus. Iron deficiency is a common micronutrient deficiency during gestational period which often results in iron deficiency anemia (IDA). IDA causes several maternal and fetal complications. One of the anticipated effects of prenatal iron deficiency is neurodevelopmental disorders in offspring, potentially including autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD mainly causes difficulties in social interaction and communication as well as restricted or repetitive behaviors. Approximately, 1 in every 68 children has ASD in the United States, and the frequency is rising. The escalating rate of ASD cases has made this a major public health concern. So, people are desperately trying to find the causes behind ASD. Lots of possible causal pathways have been explored. Maternal iron deficiency is one of the possible causes that is being investigated. The aim of this rapid review was to identify and describe studies that examined the possible link between prenatal iron deficiency anemia and ASD in children.
Methods: Two databases, PubMed, and Scopus were searched in January 2023. Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were leveraged to aid in screening titles, abstracts, and full articles based on inclusion or exclusion criteria. The final sample contained 5 studies.
Results: Four of the five articles found an association between prenatal anemia and ASD. One study observed a possible link between prenatal anemia in third trimester and ASD in children. A stronger association of maternal anemia and ASD in male children than in female children was found in one study. One study indicated a marked increase in the risks of ASD if mothers were diagnosed with anemia in earlier weeks of pregnancy (<30 >weeks). One study found a possible association between ASD and maternal iron status starting from three months prior to conception to breastfeeding period.
Conclusion: This review conducted a comprehensive search of the literature to understand the possible association between prenatal anemia and autism spectrum disorder in children. The review found mixed results on the link. So, future research in this area is warranted. In the meantime, prenatal anemia should be identified and treated because of the various health benefits.
Hossain, MBBS, Alavi, "Exploring the Possible Association between Prenatal Anemia and Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Rapid Systematic Review" (2023). Master of Public Health Capstone Presentations. Presentation 480.