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Posted at 12:00 AM ET, 01/10/2011

Pregnancies spaced closely together result in higher autism risk

By Jennifer LaRue Huget

Just days after the latest debunking of long-standing research linking autism to a common childhood vaccine, a study published this morning suggests autism may be in the works long before a baby gets any shots.

A paper in the February issue of Pediatrics looked at the autism risk for 660,000 second siblings born in California between 1992 and 2002. It found that when a second sibling is born after an "interpregnancy interval" -- or IPI -- of 12 or fewer months after the first, the second child's risk of autism is tripled compared to that of a child conceived after a three-year IPI. Children conceived after an IPI of 12 to 23 months were almost two times more likely to have been diagnosed with autism, and those conceived after an IPI of 24 to 35 months were one and a quarter times more likely to have been diagnosed with autism. (An IPI is the number of days between the birth of the first infant and that of the second, minus the second baby's gestational age; that is, the time between the first baby's birth and the second baby's conception.)

The research adds to the growing body of evidence that a mother's prenatal physiology, which recent childbirth can alter, can set the stage for her offspring to develop certain neurological and other health conditions. A link has already been established, for instance, between closely-spaced siblings and the younger child's risk of developing schizophrenia. It's believed that when a woman becomes pregnant soon after giving birth, her body may be depleted of key nutrients, particularly folate, that can affect her new baby's health.

The new findings are of particular interest for several reasons. First, they may help pinpoint a cause for autism, diagnoses of which have been on the rise in recent decades. They also raise an alert for women who, having delayed having children until late in life, may be trying to build families relatively quickly by spacing babies close together.

Finally, research such as this adds yet more evidence that vaccinations have nothing to do with causing autism.

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By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | January 10, 2011; 12:00 AM ET
Categories:  Autism, Family Health, Infant health, Infectious Disease, Kids' health, Neurological disorders, Parenting, Pregnancy, Reproductive Health, Vaccinations, Vaccines, Women's Health  
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There is one thing that bothers me about this article: it never gives concrete numbers for the increased risk of autism. If the chance of having an autistic baby triples from 1% to 3%, I'd worry about it much less. Not to mention, I think the exclusion of numbers makes the article a little less credible.

Posted by: claireunga | January 10, 2011 11:06 AM | Report abuse

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