What causes autism during pregnancy? Here`s a question that may concern you if you are expecting, especially if you want to have a healthy pregnancy.
The existence of symptoms indicating the prenatal installation of autism is intensively researched and increasingly confirmed by experts.
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What Is Autism?
Autism, known as autism spectrum disorder or ASD as well, represents a wide variety of medical conditions which are characterized by various challenges of repetitive behaviors, non-verbal communication and speech, social skills, and by unique differences and strengths. Now it`s known that there isn`t a single type of autism but several, which are caused by distinct combinations of environmental and genetic influences.
What Causes Autism during Pregnancy?
Specialists and medical experts believe that this disorder involves the abnormal development of fetal brain, due to insufficiently well-documented causes through specialist studies.
Recent studies show that the older age of the mother is a determinant risk factor. Therefore, it suggests that women who postpone the moment they become mothers have a higher risk of having a child with ASD. Researchers have discovered that this risk is 50% higher at a woman of 40 years than a woman who approaches 30 years. More previous studies have revealed a similar association, but it wasn`t clear whether the mother`s or father`s age was more essential. – Read more!
It`s well known now that various environmental factors, such as exposure to particular toxic substances while pregnant, may increase the risk for autism spectrum disorder.
It`s essential to make the difference between an increased risk and cause. The disorder generally results from several factors in most cases, additionally to genetic predisposition. This will include the exposure of the pregnant woman to particular chemicals, like phthalates and pesticides, as well as various medications, like valproic acid (for controlling seizures), some mood stabilizers and antipsychotics, terbutaline (on occasion used to stop premature labor).
More importantly, when drugs are concerned, any increased risk of this disorder to occur should be balanced against the medical necessities of the woman. Keep in mind that a pregnant woman`s health can and will affect her pregnancy as well as the future baby`s health. – Check this out!
There`s much to learn about any environmental factors which increase the risk of autism. And it can be said that by avoiding a specific exposure, this automatically means that a risk for this disorder is reduced for a specific individual. Still, it`s also known that exposure to particular toxins is related to an increased risk of various developmental disorders.
- Social Challenges – Most children are social in their nature. However, most children who suffer from this disorder experience difficulties engaging in human interactions.
- Communication Difficulties – Children with autism have a tendency of be somehow delayed when trying to speak or they babble.
- Repetitive Behaviors – Another core sign of ASD is unusual behaviors that repeat themselves and tend to engage in a variety of activities that are restricted.
- Genetic Disorders – Some children who suffer of autism experience a genetic condition that cannot be identified which seems to affect the development of the brain.
- Seizure Disorders – This type of disorders, which include epilepsy as well, occur in up to 39% of children with ASD.
When Can You Detect Autism?
Recent studies outlines that 1 out of 68 children have now been diagnosed with ASD. While this diagnosis is increasing, children aren`t normally diagnosed by a specialist until over the age of 2. Still, there are certain signs which may show your child may experience autism as early as 6 months old.
Autistic disorders become noticeable in the early years of life and are manifested by the child`s difficulty of talking, playing or interacting with others. The symptoms of autism vary to a complex extent, just like its effects. Some children who have autism have small deficiencies, while others face larger obstacles that they need overcome during their development.
There are a lot of divergent opinions shared by doctors, parents or psychologists regarding the causes and treatment of these disorders, but there an aspect unanimously accepted which is early, intensive intervention, which has achieved remarkable progresses.
The very important of early diagnosis motivates researchers to detect the installation of autism before birth, not only a more probable success of therapy, but also for discovering the exact causes of developing autistic spectrum disorders. Presently, most children get their diagnosis after the age of 4, when the treatment`s success already becomes less likely.
A recent study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine 2 years ago, shows that babies with autism have portions of disorganization in the outer layers of the brain, a symptom that the cerebral development disorder starts from the mother`s womb.
For the development of the research, scientists examined brain samples from 22 children, 11 of them who had autism, and 11 who didn`t had this disorder.
A detailed analysis was performed on samples of neocortex, which develop into 6 layers during fetal development, each with its own specialized cells. While these cells mature, they take on a genetic signature, which can be visualized through sophisticated tissue sample evaluation techniques.
Surprinsingly, the researchers were able to highlight small areas of brain development disruption in the outer layers of the brain of children who suffered of ASD. More than that, affected areas have been found in areas of the brain associated with complex brain functions, like interpreting social points or understanding the language.
The same signals weren`t identified in the baby`s cerebral tissue without the diagnosis of autism.
Ed Lein, a researcher of the Allen Institute for Brain Science and a participant to the study, claims that the unprecedented discovery can be a direct proof of the autism`s prenatal origin. The good news is that the information missing at the neocortex level may be rewritten to some extent during the first years of life, which would also explain the efficiency of behavioral therapy among children with autism benefiting from early intervention.
Unfortunately, for the moment it wasn`t possible to establish in what stage of pregnancy the abnormalities would occur and, even more importantly, which are their exact causes.
Another study performed by researchers at Cambridge University, speaks of the direct link between the increased level of testosterone from the amniotic liquid and the child`s autistic features, as well as lack of social skills and speech difficulties present until the age of 8. Because the theory couldn`t be further confirmed, the amniocentesis for the diagnosis of autism isn`t yet a prenatal screening method unanimously accepted by specialists.
Can We Prevent Autism?
Women who choose to immunize against rubella before pregnancy are able to prevent the autism form associated with rubella. After birth, there are a few measures which might prove helpful when wanting to prevent autism. One would be an early diagnosis as well as treatment of PKU, which it`s a hereditary disease caused by the absence of an enzyme from the liver that is necessary for the digestion of the enzyme phenylalanine. Also, an early diagnosis as well as treatment of celiac disease might reduce the risk of autism.