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Can Bacterial Infections during pregnancy increase risk of autism?

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Autism Spectrum Disorders Causes

One of the major questions of the last few decades concerns the specific cause of autism spectrum disorders, and how to prevent them. Autism spectrum disorders is a group of disorders characterized by neural development changes. These can result in children with impaired social interaction, delayed speech and non-verbal communication, and stereotyped behaviors. This combination of differences can make it difficult for children to learn to how to interact not only with parents but also the rest of the world, making schooling, learning, and eventually living an independent life problematic. There is no cure for autism spectrum disorders, but given the amount of interest in these disorders in the past few years, many advances have been made in types of therapies that can help children and families better cope.  There has also been a growing amount of research done to try to identify the specific cause of autism spectrum disorders so that they can be better prevented. Because of the complexity of the disorder, the unique way it presents in people, and the multiple different associations that various research has noted, identifying a single cause for autism spectrum disorders has been very difficult.


It is not clear if autism is caused before ,during, or after pregnancy


New Reasearch Findings on Autism Spectrum Disorders Causes

Many theories have arisen as to the cause of autism spectrum disorders, but none have been definitive. Recent studies have suggested that they may be related to bacterial infection acquired during pregnancy. A recent study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders suggests that infections may be related to autism. The study was a retrospective study of nearly 2500 children. Infections that were noted during hospitalization, or were likely more serious, may be associated with a 58% higher chance of having a child with autism spectrum disorders. However, having an infection does not mean that a child will definitely develop autism spectrum disorders, this is simply an association that was noted based on the study. The infections that were noted were normally those of the urinary tract or genitourinary tract. It also noted that second trimester infections were more likely associated with autism. The specific mechanism by which this occurs is not clear, but a lot of brain development does occur during the second semester, and the mother's immune system may also affect development as it fights the infection.

 Pregnancy and Infections


Infections during pregnancy are very common, and most are not cause for concern for increased risk of autism spectrum disorders.  Past studies have shown that more serious infections, such as encephalitis caused by things such as measles, rubella, herpes, mumps, varicella, and CMV may be related to developing autism spectrum disorders. Because of this, health care providers tend to watch mothers carefully during pregnancy and encourage moms to fully vaccinated to prevent some of the diseases listed above. It is also very important to watch weight gain closely during the pregnancy. Infections can affect how much weight is gained. Birth weight is one of the most important things associated with problems after pregnancy. And the risk of autism spectrum disorders does seem to be linked to low birth weight, which may be related to infections during pregnancy as well. A retrospective study of 40,000 records showed a clear connection between the risk of developing autism spectrum disorder and low birth weight.


Autism is difficult to define


The exact cause of autism spectrum disorders is yet to be understood, but research does tend to be pointing us in the right directions. For now, we will continue to try to study the known associations between bacterial infections during pregnancy with developing autism spectrum disorders, and make sure that health care professionals are doing their best to keep mothers well and healthy throughout their entire pregnancy.