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Major stress during pregnancy linked to autism

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Women who have had a major stressful event - death of a spouse, job loss, or a long-distance move - midway through their pregnancy may have a greater chance of having an autistic child than do their unstressed counterparts say researchers at The Ohio State University Medical Center.

In a presentation at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego, Dr. David Beversdorf, a neurologist at OSU Medical Center and principal investigator of the study, reported on a study of 188 women who had delivered autistic children. The research showed that these women were more likely to have experienced a major stressor the 24th through 28th weeks of their pregnancy.

"Researchers have been examining the genetic component of the disease for years, but there is now evidence through this study that autism is also linked to external factors, such as prenatal stress," he said.

Beversdorf and his collegues asked mothers to document their stress levels when stressful events occurred during their pregnancies. The study included the mothers of autistic children, 212 women who had normal births and 92 women who had children with Down's syndrome - a genetically caused neurological disorder caused by chromosomal abnormality.

The researchers then used a standard psychological measure - The Social Readjustment Rating Scale - to gauge the impact at four-week intervals that those stressors had on
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Contact: Jill Boatman
boatman-2@medctr.osu.edu
614-293-3737
Ohio State University
21-Nov-2001


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