What Causes Autism During Pregnancy?

Autism is a developmental disability that usually appears during the first three years of life. It is a neurological disorder that impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010, autism is the most common of the Pervasive Developmental Disorders, affecting an estimated 1 in 68 births. This means that as many as 1.5 million Americans today are believed to have some form of autism.

What is Autism?

Autism is a brain disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate, to reason, and to interact with others. It is a spectrum disorder that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees of severity, and it is often found in combination with other disabilities.

What causes Autism?

Researchers have yet to pinpoint any single cause of autism. However, studies indicate that it is related to abnormal brain structure and/or function. When brain scans are performed on children with the disorder, there are noticeable differences from non-autistic children in brain structure.

There are a number of theories regarding the cause. Scientists are researching links between genetics and medical issues. Other factors, such as problems during pregnancy and environmental factors, may also have an effect on the developing baby in regards to autism.

Some researchers are investigating a number of theories, including the link between heredity, genetics and medical problems. Other researchers are investigating problems during pregnancy or delivery as well as environmental factors such as viral infections, metabolic imbalances, and exposure to environmental chemicals.

Who is at risk?

Autism tends to occur more frequently than expected among individuals who have certain medical conditions, including Fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, congenital rubella syndrome, and untreated phenylketonuria (PKU). It is four times more common in boys than girls but is found equally in all other populations.

Are there treatments options available?

There is no cure for autism, but many treatments are available that may ameliorate some of the more challenging aspects of the disorder. Education can help parents learn to deal with their child’s behavioral and emotional concerns, and will allow them to train their child to live a more independent lifestyle. However, it is important to remember that all autistic children are different, and no single treatment will work for all children.

Where can I go for additional information?

For additional information contact:
Autism Society of America
7910 Woodmont Avenue, Suite 300
Bethesda, Maryland 20814-3067
1 800.3AUTISM
1 (301)657-0881

Information adapted from the Autism Society of American

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