Does This Study Help Doctors Understand Possible Causes of Autism?

Autism continues to be a major concern for parents and moms-to-be. If you're pregnant, you may wonder if there is anything that you can do during your pregnancy to reduce the risk of your child developing autism. Because it's a disorder we still don't know a lot about, including the causes of autism or if there is a cure, doctors are always trying to study more and uncover more about prevention. 

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One of the latest studies has linked autism to mothers having fevers during their pregnancies. 

Specifically, the study, which was conducted by Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City, NY, and analyzed women in Norway. It found that the risk of autism increased the more fevers that the mother had during pregnancy in her second and third trimesters. With three or more fevers, the risk actually rose to 300 percent higher chance of reporting autism. The researchers also noted that there was an association between autism and fever in the first trimester, but the risk seemed to be much higher in the later trimesters. 

Image via Flickr/ Becky Wetherington

Although the study may not necessarily prove that having a fever can cause autism, researchers think that the study suggests that autism is tied to the immune system. So anything that triggers the immune system, such as a virus that could lead to a fever, could somehow be linked to autism. It's a theory that autism is actually set off like an autoimmune disorder, such as diabetes, and that the mother's own immune response to an infection may get disrupted along the way, leading to autism. 

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So what does all this mean? It sounds like a scary finding, especially when you consider the fact that during pregnancy, a woman's immune system is lowered on its own, leaving her more vulnerable to infection. But there are many factors to think about, including the fact that this is just a study that shows an association, not necessarily a cause. However, fevers during pregnancy are linked to other potentially harmful outcomes, such as premature labor and birth. So if you do have any type of illness during pregnancy, be sure to speak with your pregnancy care provider about safe ways to treat the infection. Check what over-the-counter medications you can safely take. And drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. 

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Does This Study Help Doctors Understand Possible Causes of Autism?

Chaunie Brusie is a coffee mug addict, a labor and delivery nurse turned freelance writer, and a young(ish) mom of four. She is the author of "Tiny Blue Lines: Preparing For Your Baby, Moving Forward In Faith, & Reclaiming Your Life In An Unplanned Pregnancy" and "The Moments That Made You A Mother". She also runs Passion Meets Practicality, a community of tips + inspiration for work-at-home mothers. ... More

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