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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Lesli... Leslie_ABS

This sounds like a stupid study too, that doesn't tell us much. Since only 4% of kids are born on their due date, then their metric for measuring 'on-time' is totally inadequate. The due date does not relate to time of birth and they have no better idea for that, so what is 'late', what is 'early' when the due dates are not accurate

Carey... Carey2006


nonmember avatar Manchester

What is several weeks here? More than 3 weeks?

krisy... krisytina03

I agree with the both of you! This study is flawed in so many ways. Let's get some science into this and not guessing games.

Laura Palmer

Is it just me or does it seem like EVERY kid has autism now??? This seems to be the new "disorder" right after ADD. Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying Autism does not exsist, but for crying out loud not everyone has it and if all these studies are accurate, then every living being is at risk since anything you do puts your child at risk. Enough already.

Anthea Reiner

I wonder how many mothers will read this and start to think it's their fault their child has Autism. This study is very flawed I have three kids, one born on her due date, the next at 33 1/2 weeks and my last 2 weeks late and none of them show signs of autism, I wonder if the people doing this study looked at families that are not affected by Autism when they came to their results.

nonmember avatar Redbecca

PPs: If you took time to READ the actual STUDY you'd see that they broke the groups down by weeks before or past due date, and they were good about giving "due date" a generous window. And these days it is only the truly ignorant doctor who is grossly off on due dates. Honestly, if you know when you ovulated, then you know when you're due. It's not rocket science.

linzemae linzemae

I agree Laura. Same with babies allergic to dairy, soy... Seems like most get that diagnosis

Tonya Putnam

I have 4 children, all born 2 to 3 weeks before their "due date" and only one of my children has autism.  @ Anthea, you have no idea how many times the thought of "Is this my fault" has gone through my head.  As far as autism being the "it diagnosis" our family had to go through 5 years of not knowing what was going on with my son before we finally got the diagnosis.  I think the reason autism is making the news so much more now and the prevalence rates are so high is because parents, teachers, and doctors have an idea of what to look for now.

Melissa Medina

I have 4 kids that were born early and 3 of them have been diagnosed on the spectrum. This is a conversation I have had over and over with specialists, kids that are born early tend to have autistic like symptoms so that's what they call it, autism. This is why follow up care by a specialist for preemies is so very essential. I have to agree with this study.

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