Can Mental Illness Be Prevented In The Womb?
Every day in the United States, millions of expectant mothers take a prenatal vitamin on the advice of their doctor.
The counsel typically comes with physical health in mind: folic acid to help avoid fetal spinal cord problems; iodine to spur healthy brain development; calcium to be bound like molecular Legos into diminutive baby bones.
But what about a child’s future mental health? Questions about whether ADHD might arise a few years down the road or whether schizophrenia could crop up in young adulthood tend to be overshadowed by more immediate parental anxieties. As a friend with a newborn daughter recently fretted over lunch, “I’m just trying not to drop her!”
Yet much as pediatricians administer childhood vaccines to guard against future infections, some psychiatrists now are thinking about how to shift their treatment-centric discipline toward one that also deals in early prevention.
In 2013, University of Colorado psychiatrist Robert Freedman and colleagues recruited 100 healthy, pregnant women from greater Denver to study whether giving the B vitamin choline during pregnancy would enhance brain growth in the developing fetus.
The moms-to-be were randomly given either a placebo or a form of choline called phosphatidylcholine. Choline itself is broken down by bacteria in the gut; by giving it in this related form the supplement can more effectively be absorbed into the bloodstream… Read More>>