Preterm Birth Does Not Appear to Be Linked to Autism

No significant association noted between preterm delivery, occurrence of autism spectrum disorder
Preterm Birth Does Not Appear to Be Linked to Autism
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FRIDAY, Feb. 16, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Preterm birth seems to not be significantly associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in childhood, according to a study presented at The Pregnancy Meeting, the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, held from Feb. 10 to 14 in National Harbor, Maryland.

Sapir Ellouk, M.D., M.P.H., from Soroka Medical Center in Beer-Sheva, Israel, and colleagues examined the association between preterm birth and risk for ASD in a cohort analysis conducted using population-based data encompassing deliveries from 2005 to 2017. The occurrence of ASD was compared in offspring based on their delivery period: early preterm (<34 weeks), late preterm (34 to 37 weeks), or term (37 to 42 weeks).

A total of 139,859 pregnancies were included in the analysis: 1.2 and 4.1 percent delivered early preterm and late preterm, respectively; the rest delivered at term. The researchers observed a significant association for earlier gestational age at delivery with certain obstetric characteristics, including primiparity, lower five-minute Apgar score, and male gender. No significant association was seen between preterm delivery and occurrence of ASD. The Kaplan-Meier survival curve supported this finding, demonstrating comparable cumulative morbidity across the groups. No significant association was seen between any preterm delivery group and ASD when adjusting for ethnicity, small for gestational age, maternal age, and fetal gender.

"The exact cause of autism is complex," Ellouk said in a statement. "But based on our data, a single obstetric factor is unlikely to be the cause of ASD. A more plausible theory involves the simultaneous presence of multiple factors."

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