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Can Birth Injuries Cause Autism?

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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological disorder that affects communication and social interaction. While, in many cases, its exact cause is unknown, experts have long suspected a potential link between birth injuries and the risk of developing ASD. But what evidence exists to support this connection? Let’s take a look at some recent findings.

The Evidence Behind Birth Injuries and ASD Risk

In a study published in the American Journal of Perinatology, researchers examined the link between birth complications and autism diagnoses in 594,638 children between 1991 and 2009. The results showed that 6,255 children exposed to antepartum and intrapartum complications had an increased risk of and, in fact, developed ASD at a higher rate compared to their peers who had no such issues. These complications included:

  • Preeclampsia
  • Placental abruption
  • Fetal dystocia
  • Birth asphyxia
  • The need for resuscitation at birth

See Related Reading: What is Birth Asphyxia?

These findings showed that those who were exposed to complications both before and during the birthing process were significantly more likely to develop ASD. The study found that children exposed to birth asphyxia were at a 47% increased risk for developing ASD. This increased risk remained significant even after adjusting for potential confounding variables. For children born to mothers with antepartum conditions (like preeclampsia) that were also exposed to intrapartum conditions (like birth asphyxia), the study found that these children were at a 78% increased risk of ASD. After adjustment for confounding variables, this number remained statistically significant as well.

Co-Occurrence of Autism with Cerebral Palsy

In the first American population-based study that provided details on the co-occurrence of cerebral palsy (CP) and ASD, the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network found that 6.9 percent of children with CP had co-occurring ASD. This finding suggests that the risk factor of ASD is increased in children with CP. Co-occurring ASD was more prevalent among children with hypotonic CP.

While CP may be unpreventable in some circumstances, it can often result from medical negligence. If a baby experiences head trauma, pressure on the umbilical cord, or lack of oxygen during the birthing process due to medical error, they may develop CP.

Wilmington, NC Birth Injury Attorneys

While more research needs to be done on this topic before any definitive conclusions can be drawn about causation versus correlation, it is important for parents to be aware that infants who experience any kind of birth injury may be at greater risk for developing ASD down the line. If your child has experienced a complicated birth or other injury at delivery, consider speaking to an experienced birth injury lawyer at Daniel, Holoman & Associates LLP, who can help you understand your legal rights and options moving forward.

If your baby suffered a birth injury due to negligence, call us today at (866) 380-2281 for a free consultation.

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