How Your Pregnancy Could Affect Autism In Your Child

This Just In 30

The news on autism has been sobering lately, with the CDC's recent report that the number of kids on the spectrum has increased by 78 percent compared to a decade ago. One in 88 American children are now estimated to have some form of autism spectrum disorder, and while the jump in numbers is at least partially attributed to better diagnosis, broader diagnosis, and better awareness—the fact remains that no one really knows what causes autism.

While scientists continue to examine whether or not the actual prevalence of autism has increased, new research implies that there's one factor that has an effect on the severity of an autistic child's symptoms

According to a study conducted by Tammy Movsas of Michigan State University's Department of Epidemiology, autistic children who are born several weeks early or several weeks late tend to have more severe symptoms. Additionally, autistic children who were born either preterm or post-term are more likely to self-injure themselves, compared with autistic children born on time.

The study revealed there are many different manifestations of the autism spectrum disorder, which isn't exactly surprising news—but the fact that the length of a mother's pregnancy seems to be tied to symptoms may provide important clues towards unraveling the mystery of autism.

Movsas's research is one of the first studies to look at the severity of the disorder among autistic children who were born early, on time, and late:

We think about autism being caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. With preterm and post-term babies, there is something underlying that is altering the genetic expression of autism. The outside environment in which a preterm baby continues to mature is very different than the environment that the baby would have experienced in utero. This change in environment may be part of the reason why there is a difference in autistic severity in this set of infants.

No one typically has a baby several weeks early or late on purpose, but it's possible that this new information will eventually help doctors figure out if there's anything that can be done during pregnancy to prevent or alleviate autism symptoms. Plus, it's always good news to hear that more research is being invested into what some are calling a public health emergency. Every piece of the puzzle is progress in understanding this disorder that affects so many kids—roughly 1 million children and teens in the U.S. alone.

In your own personal experience, have you observed any link between pregnancy length and autism symptoms?



Image via Flickr/DavidSalafia

complications, delivery, autism

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Eshes246 Eshes246

I have two Autistic Children.  Both my children were born at 39 weeks!

needa... needadvice1983

Well considering my son was born on his actual due date and has autism and has always been very self-injurious I would say this study is full of crap!

sterl... sterling21

I can't wrap my head around the born "several" weeks later. What doctor let's a kid sit inside their mom for that long! Very very very rarely is a baby born one week late and its almost unheard of after two weeks. I am convinced now more than ever autism is caused by stupid medical professionals, good grief what a outrageous study.

doubl... doubledsmommy

Just wondering, how many of you with autistic children had an epidural and/or pitocin while in labor? I recently posted on another autism post about this, and have since completed a bit of research to see if my idea was viable. You should google and read the info. Interesting.

steph... steph2884

Doctors need to be researching genetic and environmental factors and stop making shots in the dark. Since autism is becoming so common, you can pretty much make a connection to anything.

steph... steph2884

And to answer the question of doubledsmommy, I didn't have pitocin with either of my children. My autistic son was born by emergency csection WITHOUT LABOR. His heart rate was sustained in the 70s, so they had to take him out fast. I had an epidural with my daughter, and she is perfectly fine. The whole epidural and pitocin theory doesn't hold much water, especially with how it affects boys more than girls. So many women get epidurals or pictocin these days, there is no possible way to make a definitive answer. There are also many women who gave birth completely natural and ended up with one or more autistic children. The answer lies within our genes. Autism is the brain wired differently. I don't see how pain medication or synthetic hormone given during labor would re-wire the brain.

doubl... doubledsmommy

Steph2884, so if you had an emergency c section, you were given an epidural or spinal block then. I do not disagree that there is a genetic component. In fact I believe there has to be a genetic predisposition in the first place. Perhaps the medication in an epidural triggers the expression.

doubl... doubledsmommy

Or general anesthesia. Can't add that in my post as I'm on my phone.

citla... citlaly123

I think the Autism/ Gestational Diabetes and/or obese pregnant woman is a more feasible connection. Something w/ the endocrine system or blood glucose levels getting messed up in the embryo/fetus brain during utero development. The sugar mess had synapsis misfiring...resulting in Autism. Any one out there relate?

Bmat Bmat

My son was premature but not autistic. I hope a reason and preventative measures are found.

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