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Study says increased risk of autism for preemies

A new study has suggested increased risk of autism in preemies.  Premature babies born 31 weeks or earlier are 1.5 times more likely to develop signs of autism than a full term baby.  Babies born from 32 to 36 weeks have a 1.3 times higher rate compared to that of a baby carried to term.

The researchers point out that nearly half of the babies with autistic disorders were born full term, so increased research is necessary.

Pregnancy complications and prematurity complications may shed some light on these findings.  The study, due out in November, is authored by Dr. Susanne Buchmayer and  other doctors from the Stockholm-based Karolinska Institute. The study included 1216 autistic children and 6080 without autism.

When compared to babies born full term, babies born at 36 weeks and earlier had no significant differences.  This suggests it isn't the prematurity of the infants that is the problem, but the complications that can arise in pregnancy, causing the prematurity.

Birth defects, low blood sugar and low birthweight are all conditions that can lead to increased risk.  Pre-eclampsia, a sometimes life-threatening condition for the mother, had almost a 50% increased risk of the baby developing autism.

photograph copyright Tina Cruz.

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