, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 453-460

Brief report: A case-control study of obstetric complications and later autistic disorder

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The precise etiology of autism remains unclear. Obstetric adversity has been described as one factor that may increase the risk for the disorder. We examined the contemporaneous birth records of 49 children satisfying DSM-III-R criteria for autistic disorder, at four Dublin maternity hospitals, using the previous same-sex live birth in that hospital as a control. Data were evaluated blind to subject status using two obstetric complication (OC) rating scales. No significant differences in obstetric adversity were found between index and control groups. Autistic individuals did not differ from controls in terms of previously described risk factors for this disorder (maternal age, maternal parity, birth order, and low birth weight) in autism. These data do not support the view that OCs increase the risk for later autism.

This study was supported by the Health Research Board of Ireland and the Stanley Foundation (USA). We extend our thanks to the patients and their parents, to the Clinical Directors and staff of the Eastern Health Board, Mater Hospital, and St. John of God Psychiatric Services and to the staff of the Autistic Services. We are particularly grateful to the Irish Society for Autism. We also particularly thank the Masters and Medical Record Officers of the Coombe Hospital, the National Maternity Hospital, the Rotunda Hospital and St. James Hospital.