Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), informally known as autism, affects how people perceive the world and socialize with others. It has a wide range of symptoms and severity. ASD is a relatively recent diagnosis, combining four other former diagnoses. The cause of ASD is unknown, but there are some correlations.
Researchers proved that there is a link between premature birth and autistic spectrum disorder according to a comprehensive study performed in 2021. This study shows a clear correlation between the chance of developing ASD and premature birth. That has implications if you believe that a birth injury caused your child’s autism.
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The Study Proving the Link
The study, published in Pediatrics and done by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, looked at the connection between premature birth and autistic spectrum diagnosis. They used Swedish national cohort data collected between 1973 and 2013 for single births of children who lived over one year and who went for a follow-up diagnosis of ASD. The study examined the data of over 4 million infants.
The data showed that the rate of ASD diagnosis in normal births (39-41 weeks), was 1.4%. The numbers for premature birth were much higher:
- 1.9% for late preterm (34-36 weeks)
- 2.6% for moderate preterm (28-33 weeks)
- 6.1% for extremely preterm (22-27 weeks)
Overall, the chance of ASD for any premature birth was 2.1%. These statistics held independent of shared environmental and genetic factors and points to a causal relationship. We don’t know how premature birth may cause ASD, but this shows a strong potential causal relationship.
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Premature Children Need ASD Testing
“Both preterm and early-term births should now be recognized as independent risk factors for autism in both males and females,” according to Dr. Casey Crump, the lead researcher. “Children born prematurely need early evaluation and long-term follow-up to facilitate early detection and treatment of autism. Hopefully, our findings will help raise awareness of that.”
Premature birth can cause delays in the development of all organs, including the brain. The weight of the human brain increases by nearly a third between 34 weeks and 40 weeks. It’s a sensitive time for brain growth, and premature birth can damage this time of development.
Another factor that can damage the brains of premature children is an inflammatory environment. An inflammatory response causes some birth injuries. This can damage the growing brain and create the alterations that cause ASD in babies.
Birth Injuries and Autistic Spectrum Disorder
From these findings, we can make a case that if a birth injury causes premature birth or creates a highly inflammatory environment during this time of brain development, it also causes ASD. Children with ASD can require a lot of medical care and support to understand and work through their manifestation of the disorder, and this costs parents a lot of time and money.
Some of the birth complications that have been linked to ASD include:
- Birth asphyxia
- Improperly positioned fetus (transverse or breech)
- Fetal dystocia
- Placental abruption
- Maternal diabetes
Autism spectrum disorder is not a birth injury in itself. The underlying cause of ASD is unknown, but we do know that certain birth injuries can greatly raise the chances of it happening. A birth injury lawyer can help you prove a birth injury was inflicted upon you by a negligent doctor and get you compensation for the injury plus any consequences of that injury like ASD.
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Hypoxia and ASD
Another meta-analysis of studies by the Harvard School of Health found that children who suffered birth injuries during labor or delivery were around 500% more likely to develop ASD. An especially bad one was birth hypoxia, which happens when oxygen levels are too low.
Birth hypoxia causes many neurological problems and it’s a leading cause of cerebral palsy and severe developmental disabilities. Many of the birth injuries in the ASD list above also have a low oxygen component.
Severely premature babies are at greater risk of low oxygen because of underdeveloped lungs. This could explain part of the reason these babies are so at-risk for developing ASD, but more research is needed to prove a strong link between low oxygen during development, birth, and delivery and autistic spectrum disorders.
Is There a Cure for Autistic Spectrum Disorder?
There is no known cure for autistic spectrum disorder, but many people born with it go on to live full and productive lives. However, some children will need lifetime support from others to cope with the challenges of living. Many children with severe ASD also have other birth injuries.
Fortunately, our understanding of this disorder keeps improving and there are resources for children and adults with ASD. Accessing some of these can be expensive though, and that’s where a birth injury lawyer can help you.
Even though there is no cure, proper support can make a world of difference in the life of your child. If you believe that a doctor’s negligence caused your child’s ASD through another untreated birth injury, you deserve to get compensation to pay for that care, and the Birth Injury Lawyers Group can help you.
Contact the Birth Injury Lawyers Group
If your child was born prematurely because of a birth injury and later was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder, you may be able to claim compensation. Find out your legal options by contacting the Birth Injury Lawyers Group for a free consultation.
Should you have a case and win, you can give your child the best chance to minimize their symptoms and maximize their potential. Call or email us immediately to see if you have a case.