Studies: Environmental factors during pregnancy can affect likelihood of having a child with autism

Two recent studies in the Archives of General Psychiatry show that environmental factors play a major role in the development of autism. The findings are significant because for decades, the mainstream medical establishment has steadfastly maintained that the causes of autism are primarily genetic.  However, some experts, and many parents, have known for years that the causes of autism are largely environmental.

In fact, autism is believed by many to be caused by a genetic susceptibility followed by an environmental trigger or triggers. The rate of autism has increased tenfold in the past 15 years, a rise that cannot be solely attributed to factors such as changes in diagnostic criteria.

In the first study, researchers examined 192 pairs of identical and fraternal twins from California. Each pair had at least one twin with autism.  The study showed that environmental, or non-genetic factors in the womb, may significantly influence whether a child develops autism.

The study showed that when one identical twin had autism, his or her twin only had autism about two-thirds of the time, a figure lower than expected, since identical twins have the same DNA.

Meanwhile, fraternal twins in the study both had autism about one-fourth of the time, which was higher than anticipated, because fraternal twins are no more likely to have similar DNA than any other siblings, yet they share the same womb at the same time.

In a smaller study, antidepressant use by pregnant mothers during the year before giving birth, especially during the first trimester, was found to lead to an increased risk of having children with autism. Exposure to SSRIs including Prozac, Zoloft, Luvox, Celexa, and Paxil in the womb increased the risk of autism 2.2-fold.

Some language on government websites about the safety of certain drugs is shockingly, recklessly contradictory.

For example, the National Institute of Mental Health states on its website, “Research has shown that antidepressants, especially SSRIs, are safe during pregnancy.”

Two lines later, the NIMH says, “However, antidepressant medications do cross the placental barrier and may reach the fetus. Some research suggests the use of SSRIs during pregnancy is associated with miscarriage or birth defects, but other studies do not support this.  Studies have also found that fetuses exposed to SSRIs during the third trimester may be born with ‘withdrawal’ symptoms such as breathing problems, jitteriness, irritability, trouble feeding, or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).”

To read the rest of my article on examiner.com, click here.

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