Winter Conception Linked to Autism
May 24, 2011 · Posted in Autism, Parenting, Pregnancy, Toddlerhood · Permalink

A study in the journal, Epidemiology,  reports that babies conceived during winter had a significantly greater risk of autism.  The study examined the birth records of more than six million children born in California during the 1990s and early 2000s.

The risk of having a child with an autism spectrum disorder grew progressively throughout the fall and winter to early spring with children conceived in March having a 16 percent greater risk of later autism diagnoses, when compared with July conceptions.

The researchers said the finding suggests that environmental factors, for example, exposure to seasonal viruses like influenza, might play a role in the greater risk they found of children conceived during the winter having autism.

“The study finding was pronounced even after adjusting for factors such as maternal education, race/ethnicity, and the child’s year of conception,” said lead study author Ousseny Zerbo, a fifth-year doctoral student in the graduate group in epidemiology in the Department of Public Health Sciences in the UC Davis School of Medicine.

The study found that the overall risk of having a child with autism increased from month to month during the winter through the month of March. For the study, winter was considered the months of December, January and February. Each month was compared with July with an 8 percent higher incidence in December, increasing to 16 percent higher in March.

Earlier studies’ findings about autism risk and month of conception or birth have had varied results. Some, such as ones conducted in Israel, Sweden, and Denmark, have found an increased risk of autism for children born in March. Studies conducted in Canada, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom identified an increased risk of autism for children born in the spring. However, these studies were far smaller, most having a few hundred cases of autism, when compared with the large number in California.

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