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Birth Injuries and the Risk of Autism


According to a new study, difficulties that occur during labor and soon after birth increase the risk of a child developing autism.

The report, Perinatal and Neonatal Risk Factors for Autism: A Comprehensive Meta-Analysis, published in the journal Pediatrics in July, reviewed 64 other studies on autism. The author’s review of the studies of autism failed to identify any single candidate, but indicated that an assortment of perinatal and neonatal conditions might increase the risk.

Collectively, the studies examined more than 60 perinatal and neonatal factors.

The overall analysis showed that 16 of the factors had significant associations with autism:

  • Neonatal anemia, meconium aspiration, fetal distress, birth injury or trauma
  • ABO or Rh incompatibility, low birth weight, small for gestational age, or maternal hemorrhage
  • Abnormal presentation, or umbilical-cord complications
  • Multiple birth, hyperbilirubinemia, or summer birth,
  • Congenital malformation, low five-minute Apgar score, or feeding difficulties

A few of the factors showed a significant increase in the risk of developing autism.

Meconium Aspiration

During a difficult birth, a baby can become stressed by inadequate blood and oxygen supply. The stress causes the baby pass waste products (meconium) while still in the uterus, and it can then inhale them. This is meconium aspiration and was it connected to a seven times higher risk for the development of autism.

Babies subjected to a birth injury or trauma, another factor associated with difficult births, showed a five times greater risk for autism.

Mothers and babies with incompatible blood types had a nearly four times greater risk. Very low birth weight babies had three times the risk. A maternal hemorrhage more than doubled the chance of autism.

Unlikely Causes

The report was able to rule out some factors as being a cause of autism:

  • Anesthesia
  • Assisted vaginal delivery
  • Post-term birth
  • High birth weight
  • Head circumference

Ohio birth injury lawyers say all too often, birth injuries that lead to autism is the unfortunate result of doctor or hospital negligence.


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