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Pregnancy and Labor Complications Linked to Higher Rates of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Kaiser Permanente has been in the news before for groundbreaking findings in the field of Autism research. In recent years, they’ve seemed to focus on causation for Autism Spectrum Disorder, also known as ASD. In the recent past, they’ve made headlines for studies showing that maternal hospital acquired infections can increase autism risk, that younger siblings of children with an ASD diagnosis are more likely to also have the condition, and that mothers with gestational diabetes are more likely to have a child with ASD. Their latest finding, released in January, has revealed a strong relationship between pregnancy and labor complications and an increased risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder.  The study was performed through analysis of records of 594,638 children that were born between 1991-2009 at a Kaiser Permanente hospital. Of the nearly 600,000 records examined, 37% of the children were born to mothers who experienced a complication at some point during pregnancy or labor itself. The study showed that children born to mothers who had labor complications had a 10% increased risk of developing an ASD.  The real finding lies in this: Of the children who were born to mothers who faced a pregnancy complication, the risk of developing ASD increased another 12%, or a 22% overall higher risk. If a child was exposed to complications during both pregnancy and labor, it jumped to a 44% increased risk.

What Was Considered a Pregnancy or Labor Complication?
The study authors noted that preeclampsia (primarily presents itself by elevated maternal blood pressure either during pregnancy and/or at the time of labor) and asphyxia (loss of fetal oxygen) were two birth complications that showed the strongest connection to an increased risk of ASD development in children. Other complications said to have a connection during pregnancy and labor were the position of the baby (breech), placental separation, a prolapsed/exposed umbilical /’cord and something known as fetal dystocia (larger baby or baby in an irregular position that causes difficult delivery).

The findings are a great reminder to all expectant mothers that supervision under a vigilant and competent physician is the best choice you can make for your health and the health of your unborn baby.