GUEST BLOG POST: Preconception Health Tips by Dr. Robert Melillo, author, Autism

Just two decades ago, the likelihood of having a child with autism was 1 in 10,000. Today it is 1 in 88.

No wonder doctors are now calling the rise in autism a public health emergency. Yet when it comes to tackling this difficult issue, it seems that most people are at a loss. The medical community is often divided over treatment plans, while parents are both scared and confused. People considering having children (or adding onto their family) are equally worried, as they wonder: “What can I do? Is there a way to help decrease my child’s risk of autism or is there nothing I can do?”

The good news is that the issue is not out of your hands. There are several things that parents can do to help ensure that they reduce their risk of autism. By learning about these techniques, you can become informed and empowered, and you can also increase your own health and well-being across the board. And, don’t wait until you are pregnant before adopting a healthy lifestyle. These are techniques you should begin at least a year before you become pregnant.

Here is what you need to consider:

We all know that moms shouldn’t smoke, drink or eat raw fish while pregnant, but that’s the beginning. There are many factors that can impact the health and development of the fetus, including stress.

Over the years, a number of studies have shown a link between maternal stress and her child’s mental and physical health. For example, studies have shown that moms who were pregnant during the time that disastrous hurricanes hit Louisiana were more likely to have children who were later diagnosed who autism. The worse the storm the mothers endured, the higher the incidence of autism among the children.

Similar findings are appearing among survivors who were in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Children born to these women have been found to have elevated stress response which could lead to a number of issues later in life, including PTSD.

Interestingly, a study with guinea pigs found that male babies seem to be more greatly impacted by maternal stress, and the same appears to be true among humans as well. This could explain why boys are more likely to develop autism than girls.

Thankfully, there are many ways that people can reduce stress. The best way is through exercise. Exercise doesn’t only keep you toned and trim, it helps you to slash stress and keep cortisol levels in check. Your mental health will improve and you will sleep better, think clearer, and simply feel better across the board. If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise regime.

You can use other methods to cut down on stress as well. You can do so through meditation, yoga, and deep breathing. Sex can also help decrease stress, as can laughter, so look for ways to bring more passion and humor into your life.

Your physical health is also of the utmost importance. Eating right and being active is important at every stage in life, but when preparing to have a child is it particularly crucial. Not only will you be a role model for your child when he or she arrives, but being physically fit will help to ensure that you have a healthy pregnancy.

Create optimal health by always choosing organic fruits and veggies in order to avoid harmful pesticides. Make sure you are getting enough vitamins through food and supplements, most notably when it comes to Vitamin D, folate/folic acid, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin E, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Eat clean and avoid sugar, gluten, artificial sweeteners. Opt for protein with every meal and put an emphasis on gluten-free grains and organic produce. You should also only take medication when absolutely necessary and you should also avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea, and soda.

Along with reducing stress and establishing a healthy lifestyle, you should also work to keep your mind sharp and active, using both hemispheres of the brain. Keep the right hemisphere engaged through activities like singing, creative writing, or poetry, and keep the left hemisphere sharp with activities like number calculation, spelling, and counting backward.

All of the above activities can help to make you physically and mentally primed for pregnancy as well as parenthood. Best of all, they will also vastly contribute to your own health and well-being as well.

 Dr. Robert Melillo is an internationally known lecturer, author, educator, researcher and clinician specializing in the areas of neurology, rehabilitation, neuropsychology and neurobehavioral disorders in children. He is co-founder of the Brain Balance Achievement Centers™ and developed the Brain Balance Program™, a multi-modal approach to the remediation of ADHD, dyslexia, autism, Asperger’s, Tourette’s, learning disabilities and processing disorders along with other neurobehavioral disabilities found in children. Dr. Melillo has been regularly featured on Fox News and has written two books for parents focusing on brain imbalances in children; Disconnected Kids and Reconnected Kids. His third book, Autism: The Scientific Truth About Preventing, Diagnosing, and Treating Autism Spectrum Disorders – and What Parents Can Do Now, is now available.  Visit

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