Maternal Age and Autism

The universal symbol for autism is a puzzle piece. It’s pretty symbolic if you think about it. There are a lot of pieces to the Autism puzzle – some we’re aware of and others that we aren’t. Another piece of the Autism puzzle has fallen into place after a study done by the University of California, Davis.

The study, published in the February issue of the Autism Research Journal took into account over 4.9 million children born in California in the 90’s.  Researchers found that the mother’s age when giving birth had a direct effect on the child’s risk of developing Autism. This is particularly true for women over the age of 40 as they are 50% more likely to give birth to an Autistic child than women who give birth at ages 25-29.

Additionally, for every 5 years maternal age, the risk of Autism is increased by 18%.  Some studies have indicated that a father’s age also had an effect on the statistics and risk. In this particular study, researchers found that the father’s age had no effect on the Autism risk when the woman’s age was over 30. It isn’t until you combine a man over 40 and a woman under the age of thirty. For example, if a man over 40, and a woman under 25 conceive a child, the risk of Autism in that child is double that of a father between ages of 25-29 and a woman of the same age.

In the 90’s, the number of women who gave birth in California went up 300%. Autism cases sky rocketed by about 600%. This study shows the clear correlation between the age of women giving birth and the risk of the child developing Autism, but researchers and experts point out that these cases only account for 5% of the overall cases of Autism that exist.

Despite the seemingly small impact that this study has on the overall spectrum that is Autism, it’s very important to realize that Autism is a very complicated disorder to investigate. There are many “pieces” to the puzzle, and though this is only one small piece, it’s a collective amount of these small pieces that when put together, that make Autism more known, understood, and hopefully someday, cured.

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