Children who have been exposed to birth complications like preeclampsia or asphyxia could have a higher risk of developing autism. Experts learned the connection in a retrospective study based on health records culled from the Kaiser Permanente hospital from 1991 and 2009.
The retrospective study, published in the American Journal of Perinatology, looked into 594,638 children's records of the Southern California hospital. From this number, the experts learned 6,255 kids have been diagnosed as under the autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
The researchers further learned of those diagnosed with autism, 37 percent experienced birth complications. Those exposed to birth complications before childbirth had a 22 percent increased risk and those exposed to birth complications before and during childbirth had a 44 percent increased risk.
The study identified birth complications like asphyxia (oxygen deprivation) and preeclampsia as most associated with autism development. Other birth complications, however, like breech birth, high blood pressure, indications of organ damage, fetal dystocia and prolapsed umbilical cord, could also trigger similar problems.
The researchers considered factors like the mother's age, education and race, as well as the gestational age at birth, to arrive at the analysis. The experts said the findings of the retrospective study could be helpful in providing early intervention for babies who have had birth complications, especially since autism has no known cure.
"Early identification of children who may be at risk of developing the disorder is extremely important," study author Dr. Darios Getahun said, according to Science Daily. "Research shows that early intervention treatment services for children with ASD can greatly improve their development," he further said.
According to Medical Express, this is not the first Kaiser Permanente study on autism in children. In 2016, the data was also used to identify autism spectrum disorders among siblings, with younger siblings' likely to have 14 percent increased risks of developing the condition. In 2015, the data also revealed that babies whose moms have had gestational diabetes were also at risk of developing autism.
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