Pregnancy and Delivery Complications May Increase Autism Risks: Study

New research suggests that complications during pregnancy and delivery may increase the risk that a child will develop autism. 

In a study published last week in the American Journal of Perinatology, researchers from Kaiser Permanente report that infants who were born to mothers who had high blood pressure during pregnancy, experienced oxygen deprivation and birth, and experienced other birth injuries, complications or problems during pregnancy have a slightly increased risk of being diagnosed with autism later in life.

Researchers conducted a retrospective cohort study looking at the rate of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnoses among 594,638 children born in Kaiser Permanent hospitals in southern California from 1991 to 2009. They looked at the children’s medical records to see who was born following pregnancy or delivery complications.

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According to their findings, about 37% of children with autism went through complications either right before delivery or during. The study found a 22% increased risk of autism among children who underwent complications late in their mother’s pregnancy. The study found that there was a 10% risk among children who suffered complications during their delivery.

If a child suffered complications both during pregnancy and delivery, they had a 44% greater risk of an autism diagnosis.

The study involved looking at a wide range of birth and pregnancy complications, including prolapsed or exposed umbilical cords, pre-eclampsia, birth oxygen deprivation, breach or sideways birth, and premature separation of the placenta from the uterus.

“Exposure to antepartum or intrapartum complications increases the risk of ASD in the offspring,” the researchers concluded. “Therefore, pregnancy complications may help identify children who could benefit from early screening and intervention for this common neurodevelopmental condition.”

About one in 68 children has autism. Boys are five times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls. It is a disorder which effects all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

Children diagnosed with autism often have difficulty with social interaction. They also display problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, exhibit repetitive behaviors and have narrow obsessive interests. The disorder can present as mild or very disabling and has no known cure.

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