Latest research linking autism to maternal behaviours/conditions

Two recent research articles have been published investigating whether maternal behaviours/conditions can increase the risk of autism.

1. Boukhris, T. et al. Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy and the Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children. JAMA Pediatrics. 2016 170(2):117-124

Importance: The association between the use of antidepressants during gestation and the risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children is still controversial. The etiology of ASD remains unclear, although studies have implicated genetic predispositions, environmental risk factors, and maternal depression.

Results: During 904 035.50 person-years of follow-up, 1054 children (0.7%) were diagnosed with ASD; boys with ASD outnumbered girls by a ratio of about 4:1. The mean (SD) age of children at the end of follow-up was 6.24 (3.19) years. Adjusting for potential confounders, use of antidepressants during the second and/or third trimester was associated with the risk of ASD (31 exposed infants; adjusted hazard ratio, 1.87; 95% CI, 1.15-3.04). Use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors during the second and/or third trimester was significantly associated with an increased risk of ASD (22 exposed infants; adjusted hazard ratio, 2.17; 95% CI, 1.20-3.93). The risk was persistent even after taking into account maternal history of depression (29 exposed infants; adjusted hazard ratio, 1.75; 95% CI, 1.03-2.97).

Conclusions and Relevance: Use of antidepressants, specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, during the second and/or third trimester increases the risk of ASD in children, even after considering maternal depression. Further research is needed to specifically assess the risk of ASD associated with antidepressant types and dosages during pregnancy.

Read the abstract here

2. Connoley, N. et al. Maternal metabolic risk factors for autism spectrum disorder—An analysis of electronic medical records and linked birth data. Autism Research. Article first published online: 29 January 2016

Abstract: Past studies have suggested that conditions experienced by women during pregnancy (e.g. obesity and gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM)) may be associated with having a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Our objective was to compare mothers who had a child diagnosed with ASD to mothers of children with a non-ASD developmental disorder (DD) or without any reported DD (controls).

To accomplish the objective we collected medical record data from patients who resided in the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s (CCHMC) primary catchment area and linked those data to data from birth certificates (to identify risk factors). Two comparison groups were analyzed; one with DD; and the other, controls without a reported ASD or DD. Descriptive statistics and regression analyses evaluated differences.

Differences were greater comparing mothers of ASD to controls than comparing ASD to DD. Maternal obesity and GDM were associated with a statistically significant approximately 1.5-fold increased odds of having a child with an ASD.

For mothers with both GDM and obesity, the association was twofold for having a child with ASD compared with controls. Maternal obesity and GDM might be associated with an increased risk of ASD in the offspring; however, no difference in risk of ASD according to BMI and GDM was seen when comparing to DD.

Read the full article here

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