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40 Force: Unlocking Autism – Do Birth Complications Increase Risk?


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) – One of the biggest mysteries when it comes to autism spectrum disorder is what causes it.

While there are many theories, they remain just that. One recent study took a look at certain birth complications an has now associated them with autism.

Neonatal anemia, merconium aspiration, birth injury or trauma, even abnormal birth positions or multiples.

According to one study published by the Journal of Pediatrics in February, some of these birth complications can increase a child’s risk of autism. But one local expert is very hesitant to agree.

“It’s important for everyone to understand, these are not causes of autism but they are associations,” says Dr. Andrew Healy, Medical Director of Obstetrics at Baystate Medical Center.

In fact, according to Dr. Healy this study is not enough to definitively prove anything.

“One may think that if a baby has fetal distress he or she is more likely to develop autism, but another person may think a baby that is destined to develop autism may simply be more likely to undergo fetal distress at the time of delivery,” Healy explained.

Dr. Healy emphasized that this study should not deter women who are considering becoming pregnant. It should also not frighten women who already are.

“I don’t think this study is going to impact obstetric care. And hopefully it just encourages more work to be done in understanding the causes and possibly interventions not only for treatment but prevention of autism,” said Healy.

Currently there is research being done into genetic markers that may put children at a disposition to develop autism.

Eventually, Dr. Healy believes it will be possible for parents to get a prenatal diagnosis, but even that will leave some questions still to be answered.

“But knowing how significantly a child is going to be impacted, knowing where they will be on that spectrum is completely different and I’m not sure that will ever be attained in the future,” Healy told ABC40.


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