Mums who fall pregnant shortly after giving birth 50% more likely to have kid with autism
Children conceived between 18 months and five years after a previous birth are less likely to suffer from the developmental condition.
Experts say women may be unable to replenish their body with the nutrients a foetus needs if they fail to wait long enough between pregnancies.
And a long gap may indicate underlying fertility issues, which is an established risk factor.
The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, in Atlanta, US, analysed data on 356 children with autism spectrum disorder and 524 without.
Kids conceived very soon after a sibling was born were twice as likely to be severely autistic than those born within the 18 months to 5 year time frame.
And those conceived a long time after a sibling was 1.8 times more likely to be severely autistic.
Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them.
Around 700,000 people are on the autism spectrum in the UK, which is around 1 per cent of the population.
Researchers found children with autism were more likely than those in the general population to be male and delivered prematurely.
Their mums were also less likely to have a higher level of education, less likely to have been trying to conceive, and more likely to have suffered from high blood pressure.
Study leader Laura Schieve said: “These findings in concert with those from other studies can inform public health and clinical guidelines about optimal pregnancy spacing.
“Since pregnancy spacing is potentially modifiable, it is particularly important to more fully understand the underlying explanation for the associations such that women can be fully informed of the potential risks associated with short and long inter-pregnancy intervals.”
The findings are published in the journal Autism Research.
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