Maternal Stress and Autism

Analyses from the ALSPAC cohort also found evidence of a link between antenatal anxiety and neurological development. High maternal anxiety at 18 weeks’ gestation predicted atypical laterality (i.e. mixed handedness) in the child (further details available from the author upon request), independently of maternal and paternal handedness and obstetric and other antenatal risks.  No association was found with postnatal anxiety, indicating that maternal anxiety had qualitatively different effects on child handedness in the antenatal and postnatal periods. An association between antenatal anxiety and mixed handedness in the child was also found in a Danish cohort (C. Obel et al, personal communication, 2002). If antenatal anxiety is causally associated with mixed handedness, then it could have a role in other disorders associated with mixed handedness that have a neurodevelopmental component, such as dyslexia and autism. (Glover, V. & O’Connor, T. G. (2002). Effects of antenatal stress and anxiety. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 180, 389-91.)

There are a number of factors that increase or decrease testosterone levels. One of them is stress. Baron-Cohen’s work has made clear that a mother’s testosterone levels influence possibilities of autism in her children.

This study suggests that at 4.5 months during pregnancy, stress may be a factor, Studies would need to be conducted evaluating fluctuating testosterone levels in a pregnant mother over time to be able to conclude at what point during pregnancy maturation rates, and possibilities of autism, are impacted.

6 Responses to “Maternal Stress and Autism”

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