The Role of Prenatal, Obstetric and Neonatal Factors in the Development of Autism
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We conducted a linked database cohort study of infants born between 1990 and 2002 in Nova Scotia, Canada. Diagnoses of autism were identified from administrative databases with relevant diagnostic information to 2005. A factor representing genetic susceptibility was defined as having an affected sibling or a mother with a history of a psychiatric or neurologic condition. Among 129,733 children, there were 924 children with an autism diagnosis. The results suggest that among those with low genetic susceptibility, some maternal and obstetric factors may have an independent role in autism etiology whereas among genetically susceptible children, these factors appear to play a lesser role. The role of pre-pregnancy obesity and excessive weight gain during pregnancy on autism risk require further investigation.
KeywordsAutism Cohort Prenatal Pregnancy Neonatal Epidemiology
The authors thank the Reproductive Care Program of Nova Scotia and the Population Health Research Unit at Dalhousie University for facilitating access to the data and Anne Spencer for help with data analysis. This study was funded by a grant from the Cure Autism Now Foundation (now Autism Speaks). Although this research is based in part on data obtained from the Population Health Research Unit, the observations and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent those of the Population Health Research Unit.
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