In the past, autism was always attributed to genetic factors. Thanks to the advances in medical research, experts have been able to determine that environmental factors are also prominent causes of autism. A majority of people in the medical profession believe that some fetuses carry a genetic vulnerability to autism and through some environmental trigger either in the womb or just after birth, they develop the disorder.
When examining environmental triggers in relation to autism, it is important to note that the first environment in an infant’s experience is the womb or the prenatal environment. As a result, some of the common causes are linked to to the duration of pregnancy.
The Causes Of Autism – Six Common High Risk Factors
Here are some of the common causes of autism.
The Age Of Both Parents
According to a 2008 study conducted by Davis College, University of California, women who have children in their thirties and above are at a higher risk of giving birth to children with autism.
Advanced paternal age is also an important factor i.e if the mother is under the age of 30 and father is much older in comparison, the fetus is at a higher risk of developing autism.
Premature Birth And Other Birth-Related Complications
In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics conducted a study in which the researchers found that babies with low birth weight and babies born prior to 33 weeks of gestation were at a doubly higher risk of developing autism and other developmental disorders than other babies.
Apart from premature birth, neonatal anemia is another risk factor involved in the development of autism.
Nutritional Deficiencies During Pregnancy
Expecting mothers whose diet is low in folic acid have a higher risk of giving birth to a child with autism.
A study published by Swedish researchers in the publication Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology states that a Vitamin D deficiency in the mother is a contributing factor in the development of the disorder in the fetus.
SSRI Medication During Pregnancy
Pregnant women who take the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) type of antidepressants to counter depression are at increased risk of giving birth to babies with autism.
Exposure To Environmental Pollutants
It is a commonly known fact that exposure to air pollution, pesticides, cleaning chemicals, etc. is detrimental to an expectant mother’s health. But there is insufficient evidence to prove that these factors increase the risk of autism in the fetus. Medical researchers such as Dr. Harvey Karp are currently investigating the link between environmental pollutants and the risk of developing autism.
According to a 2008 research paper in Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews, researchers found a link between prenatal stress and the development of Autistic Disorder (AD) in children. This study cites that during pregnancy, exposure to stress-inducing life events may increase the likelihood of developing AD.
Research for conclusively defining the causes of autism is still ongoing. Till the time such concrete information is available, expectant mothers are advised to take precautionary measures to safeguard their babies from the few known causes and risk factors of the Autistic Disorder.