Plenty of controversy surrounds the causes of autism. Now a new study shows that, women over 40 who give birth, are nearly two times as likely to have a child with autism compared to women under the age of 25.
The researchers also stress that giving birth at a later age does not explain the current autism epidemic. While the results appear astounding and have been featured in media across the country, the research was intended to simply further avenues of research in autism.
According to the study, the number of women over 40 giving birth in California increased by 300 percent in the '90s and the diagnosis of autism increased 600 percent. The study further shows that older women account for less than 5 percent of the diagnoses.
Researches from the UC Davis MIND Institute point out that there is a correlation between parents and children with autism that should shape future work in the field. Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto adds, "We're not saying this is the fault of mothers or fathers. We're just saying this is a correlation that will direct research in the future."
Researchers have long known that the age of the parents plays a role in a child's risk of developing autism, but how big a role and how that role varies with the sex of the parent has remained confusing, with contradictory results reported in different studies.
Hertz-Picciotto, Janie E. Shelton and Daniel J. Tancredi looked at births in the '90s in California and analyzed the results and correlations. Delayed childbearing, increased ultrasounds, and an increased likelihood of gestational diabetes may be linked to the rising cases of autism.
Every day, new studies seem to be emerging that highlight increased risks for older women who are having children. We must put into perspective that medicine has come a long way to decrease the risks for both babies and mothers, and in addition to continued research, we need to strive for better healthcare, preventative treatment, and better access to resources for raising children with disabilities.