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Pregnancy risk factors related to autism: an Italian case–control study in mothers of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), their siblings and of typically developing children

  • E. Grossi (a1), L. Migliore (a2) and F. Muratori (a3) (a4)

Abstract

This study, carried out in two Italian Institutions, assesses the frequency of 27 potential autism risk factors related to pregnancy and peri- and postnatal periods by interviewing mothers who had children with autism, children with autism and one or two typically developing siblings, or only typically developing children. The clinical sample included three case groups: 73 children and adolescents with autism (Group A), 35 children and adolescents with autism (Group A1) having 45 siblings (Group B) and 96 typically developing children (Group C) matched for gender and age. Twenty-five out of 27 of risk factors presented a higher frequency in Group A in comparison with Group C and for nine of them a statistically significant difference was found. Twenty-one out of 27 of risk factors presented a higher frequency in Group A in comparison with Group B. A higher prevalence of environmental risk factors was observed in 11 risk factors in the Group A1 in comparison with Group B and for nine of them an odds ratio higher than 1.5 was found. For 13 factors there was a progressive increase in frequency going from Group C, B and A and a statistically higher prevalence of the mean number of stressful events per pregnancy was recorded in Group A when compared with Groups B and C. The results suggest that environmental, incidental phenomena and stressful life events can influence pregnancy outcome in predisposed subjects, pointing out a possible threshold effect in women who are predisposed to have suboptimal pregnancies.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: E. Grossi, Autism Research Unit, Villa Santa Maria Institute, Via IV Novembre, 22038, Tavernerio (CO), Italy. E-mail: enzo.grossi@bracco.com

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