The cause of autism has been a hot topic over the past several years. Theories abound, especially on the Internet. Unfortunately, many theories lack scientific basis. But, a study recently published in the American Journal of Perinatology suggests that complications during pregnancy and birth may play a role in causing autism.
The article, “Association of Perinatal Risk Factors with Autism Spectrum Disorder” discusses a study involving the analysis of birth records of children born at Kaiser Permanente facilities during an 18 year period, from 1991 through 2009. Of that study group, approximately 6,000 children were ultimately diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
After looking deeper into the birth records of those 6,000 children, researchers discovered that nearly 40 percent of these children suffered complications either shortly before or during birth. The complications researchers found to be most closely related to autism included birth asphyxia and preeclampsia.
Birth asphyxia occurs when a baby is deprived of oxygen during the birthing process which can cause damage to the baby’s brain.
Preeclampsia is potentially dangerous condition in which the mother develops high blood pressure during pregnancy.
Understanding what factors contribute to the development of autism may allow its prevention, or at least allow an earlier diagnosis of it. The study’s lead author, Dr. Darios Getahun of the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research and Evaluation, says early diagnosis is important because “Early intervention with behavioral and developmental therapy with very young children with autism can result in better long term cognitive and behavioral function.”