Infants born before term and underweight, especially baby-girls are twice as likely to develop autism, a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in the June edition of the journal Pediatrics revealed.
Autism is a brain development disorder that appears before a child turns three years old; it has a serious impact on social interaction and communication. According to the CDC, one in 150 children in the U.S. now suffers from autism or related disorders that are known to belong to the autism spectrum.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for autism, but proper guidance and prognosis can hugely affect the behavior. The bad news is that some three to six children out f every 1,000 will develop autism, according to the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Males are four times more likely to develop the disorder than girls.
For the study, researchers at the CDC compared data from 565 children in Atlanta born between 1986 and 1993 who were suffering from autism with a group of babies who served as control.
The analysis showed that baby girls weighing less than 5.5 pounds had 3.5 times increased risk of autism. Also, prematurity seemed to influence, as baby girls born more than seven weeks early had a 5.4 times increased risk of autism. For boys, the birth weight and prematurity didn’t have a significant difference in their risk of being autistic.
The findings suggest that, even though autism is partly genetic, partly caused by environment factors, boys and girls appear to have different risk factors for the disorder, said study author Diana Schendel of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the CDC in Atlanta.
“What is new in this study is the in-depth look at the gender effect,” Xinhua quotes Schendel.
It has long been known that babies born before term have long-term disabilities, such as chronic lung disease, blindness, deafness, and neurodevelopmental problems or worse they are three times more likely to die during the first year of life, especially in the first month of life. Unfortunately, about one in eight births (totaling more than 520,000 babies) in the U.S. is premature.
The findings of the CDC study reinforce once again the importance of monitoring children who are born underweight or early for behavioral problems so they can get the necessary treatment at the right time, Schendel said.
Also, women are urged to seek prenatal care as early as possible and discuss everything with their doctor related to their pregnancy and the symptoms they have. They are urged not to smoke, have a balanced diet and exercise daily. And most important of all they should not worry, as stress is the worst enemy for their unborn baby.
The CDC study is not the first to link prematurity with major birth defects. Just last week, researchers from the CDC, the March of Dimes and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine released a report according to which the dramatic rise in preterm births is also due to the increase in C-section deliveries in the U.S. The analysis revealed that 92 percent of the increase in singleton premature birth is due to C-sections, which is pretty amazing, Dr. Alan Fleischman, medical director and senior vice president of the March of Dimes, said.