Article

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 471-478

First online:

Timing of Prenatal Stressors and Autism

  • D.  Q. BeversdorfAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology, Ohio State University Medical CenterDepartment of Neurology, The Ohio State University Email author 
  • , S.  E. ManningAffiliated withDartmouth Medical School
  • , A. HillierAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology, Ohio State University Medical Center
  • , S.  L. AndersonAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology, Ohio State University Medical Center
  • , R.  E. NordgrenAffiliated withDepartment of Pediatrics, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center
  • , S.  E. WaltersAffiliated withDepartment of Statistics, Ohio State University
  • , H.  N. NagarajaAffiliated withChild Health Associates
  • , W.  C. CooleyAffiliated withDepartment of Pediatrics, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center
  • , S.  E. GaelicAffiliated withDepartment of Pediatrics, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center
    • , M.  L. BaumanAffiliated withDepartment of Pediatrics Neurology, Mass General Hospital

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access

Abstract

Recent evidence supports a role for genetics in autism, but other findings are difficult to reconcile with a purely genetic cause. Pathological changes in the cerebellum in autism are thought to correspond to an event before 30–32 weeks gestation. Our purpose was to determine whether there is an increased incidence of stressors in autism before this time period. Surveys regarding incidence and timing of prenatal stressors were distributed to specialized schools and clinics for autism and Down syndrome, and to mothers of children without neurodevelopmental diagnoses in walk-in clinics. Incidence of stressors during each 4-week block of pregnancy was recorded. Incidence of stressors in the blocks prior to and including the predicted time period (21–32 weeks gestation) in each group of surveys was compared to the other prenatal blocks. A higher incidence of prenatal stressors was found in autism at 21–32 weeks gestation, with a peak at 25–28 weeks. This does support the possibility of prenatal stressors as a potential contributor to autism, with the timing of stressors consistent with the embryological age suggested by neuroanatomical findings seen in the cerebellum in autism. Future prospective studies would be needed to confirm this finding.

Keywords

Autism prenatal stress development