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J Autism Dev Disord. 2011 Jul;41(7):891-902. doi: 10.1007/s10803-010-1114-8.

The role of prenatal, obstetric and neonatal factors in the development of autism.

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Perinatal Epidemiology Research Unit, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Dalhousie University, 5850/5980 University Avenue, P.O. Box 9700, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3K 6R8, Canada.


We conducted a linked database cohort study of infants born between 1990 and 2002 in Nova Scotia, Canada. Diagnoses of autism were identified from administrative databases with relevant diagnostic information to 2005. A factor representing genetic susceptibility was defined as having an affected sibling or a mother with a history of a psychiatric or neurologic condition. Among 129,733 children, there were 924 children with an autism diagnosis. The results suggest that among those with low genetic susceptibility, some maternal and obstetric factors may have an independent role in autism etiology whereas among genetically susceptible children, these factors appear to play a lesser role. The role of pre-pregnancy obesity and excessive weight gain during pregnancy on autism risk require further investigation.

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