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Study suggests link between birth injury and autism

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Medical research continues to search for the underlying cause or causes of autism. While prior examination had focused largely on potential genetic factor, a new study points to correlations between autism and various birth injuries and other types of perinatal and fetal distress.

The study found that while there was not necessarily one single type of birth injury or delivery complication which correlated directly with autism, but that when several of these were present the statistical likelihood of an autism diagnosis increased.

As you may know, autism is a disorder generally characterized by an impaired ability to communicate and interact socially. It often manifests in repetitive behaviors. These symptoms generally show themselves before a child is three years old.

The study reviewed the data from 40 prior clinical trials and discovered that factors such as low birth weight, fetal distress during labor, birth injury, or breathing problems during delivery seemed to be somehow related to the autism.

Conversely they also found that some perinatal factors did not seem to have a relevant correlation to autism. The non-relevant factors included the use of vacuum extraction procedure, head circumference, and the use of anesthesia.

The researchers do not believe that these environmental factors alone are responsible for causing autism. But the data do suggest that perinatal factors may play a larger role than previously thought. The researchers believe that environmental and genetic factors may play an equal role.

If nothing else the study highlights the importance of reducing birth injuries and fetal distress as much as possible.

Source: Reuters “Pinning down risk factors for autism elusive: study” Amy Norton, July, 12, 2011

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