Friday, October 3, 2014

Length of Time Between Pregnancies Associated With ASD in Offspring, Study Finds

A study published in this month's Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that children who are conceived either less than one year or more than five years after the birth of a sibling may be at high risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Researchers from the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University analyzed records of nearly 7,400 children born between 1987 and 2005 in Finland to investigate the impact of maternal interpregnancy intervals and a diagnosis for ASD in offspring.

The results showed that children who were conceived less than 1 year after the birth of a sibling were 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD, compared with those conceived between a two- to three-year interpregnancy interval. Children born five to 10 years after their siblings were 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ASD. Risk for the disorder was further increased in children conceived after interpregnancy intervals of more than 10 years.

“This study provides further evidence that environmental factors occurring during or near the prenatal period play a role in autism, a serious and disabling condition that afflicts millions of individuals and that is increasing in prevalence,” commented Alan Brown, M.D., M.P.H., senior author and professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia. The researchers noted that the study results do not suggest that the length of time between pregnancies per se is a cause of ASD, but rather it is a proxy of other factors (such as the prenatal environment) that are more directly related to the chance of a child's developing the condition.

To read more about potential risk factors for ASD, see the Psychiatric News articles "If Relative Has Schizophrenia, Autism Risk Increases" and "Infants’ Eyes May Reveal Clue to Autism Risk."

(Image: Alan Bailey/
Today's Twitter Chat: Join your APA colleagues in responding to questions and comments from the public in this week's #YourMH @TWITTER chat today from noon to 1 p.m. The topic is bullying, in observance of National Bullying Prevention Month. To join, use #YourMH (stands for "Your Mental Health"), @APAPSYCHIATRIC, or #stopbullying. If you haven't created a Twitter account yet, click here to do so now. And during the chats, don't just sit on the sidelines—be a part of the conversation!