Getting confused about what might cause autism? Small wonder. Research suggests risk factors play a role before conception, during fetal development, and after birth.
After decades of emphasis on autism being a hereditary condition, interest has shifted to environmental risk factors. A recent twin study showed that genetics accounts for only about 37 percent of the risk, the rest is environmental.
Here’s a quick synopsis of just some of the research and theories:
Before conception Studies show that prior to conception, certain medications taken by the mother, maternal infection or diabetes, and exposure to toxins can all increase risk of autism. The age of the parents may play a role, the birth order of the child. . . and more.
During pregnancy: Maternal exposure to toxins and pesticides, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, as well as nutritional and hormonal imbalances can all put the fetus at increased risk for autism.
After birth: Premature delivery, low birth rate, and oxidative stress can play a role; theories abound on environmental insults that can trigger the condition and many issues await more research. While the media carries the message of mainstream medicine, insisting that vaccines do not play a role, studies do not fully support this position.
The latest “during” discovery
Scientists have determined that brains of autistic children may have too many brain cells; their brains are also heavier than those without autism. Brains of deceased boys’ were used in the study. Researchers focused on the prefrontal cortext which is responsible for social, emotional, and communication/language development. This abnormality, they suggest, occurs during fetal development. See the report here.