As if it is not enough for a family to deal with autism, now research suggests that stress in the pregnant mother may play a role. If it is any consolation, this same connection has been noted in the literature for ADHD and possibly Tourette syndrome (TS), among other conditions.
Researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine observed a “variant of a stress-sensitive gene” and exposure to stress during pregnancy among two groups of mothers of children with autism. The researchers think this could be a step toward helping identify women who have greater risks for having children with autism when exposed to stressors during a specific time window during pregnancy.
“Autism was thought to be largely a genetic disorder, but previous research has shown that environmental influences such as stress can play an important role in the development of the condition,” said David Beversdorf, MD, senior author of the study at the University of Missouri. “We know that some mothers who experience significant levels of stress don’t have children with autism, but others do. To help understand why, we studied a gene that is known to affect stress and found a link between it and the development of autism with exposure to stress.” See the full article.
ACN believes there are many environmental factors involved, not just the issue of maternal stress. It is important that studies into “environmental” factors focus beyond the prenatal period and delivery. Further, given the dramatic rise in autism and ADHD over the last two decades, there must be additional explanations for this proposed connection. One of those explanations may include the possibility of mothers’ bodies being more reactive to common stressors due to biological conditions that have impacted the stress response.